One day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Mississippi abortion ban and overturned Roe v. Wade, a half-century-old ruling, about 50 people gathered at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven to protest the rulings — much like they did in May, when a draft of the decision was leaked.
This protest was spearheaded by Graysen Kirk Linn, a rising senior at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. Kirk Linn is also credited with having organized several protests at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. When asked about why she was inspired to organize this Bans Off Our Bodies protest following the SCOTUS decision, Graysen said, “I could just think about how angry I was, but thinking back to the anger I had during the BLM movement, I remembered how good it felt to come together at that protest and unite.”
Similar protests were held across the country Saturday, including a massive gathering in Boston. Abortion remains legal and available in Massachusetts, and on Friday Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order that bars Massachusetts from cooperating with extradition attempts from other states that may pursue criminal charges in connection with receiving or performing reproductive health services that are legal here, the State House News Service reported.
Baker’s order also protects Massachusetts reproductive healthcare providers from losing their licenses or receiving other professional discipline because of out-of-state charges, and prohibits agencies under the state’s executive department from assisting another state’s investigation into a person or entity for receiving or delivering reproductive health services in Massachusetts, SHNS reported. “The commonwealth has long been a leader in protecting a woman’s right to choose and access to reproductive health services, while other states have criminalized or otherwise restricted access,” the Republican governor was quoted as saying. “This executive order will further preserve that right, and protect reproductive healthcare providers who serve out-of-state residents.”
During Saturday’s gathering at Five Corners, upwards of 50 community members joined together with signs and different chants. Kirk Linn’s help in the organization of the event seemed to bring in a good portion of younger women and young adults to the crowd, as she was able to encourage many of her friends to come to the event. Alongside the younger crowd, a good amount of the crowd was made up of middle-aged women, many of whom remember when Roe v. Wade went into effect. One of these women, Joy Robinson-Lynch, spoke about her previous involvement in reproductive care, and why she thinks the protest is necessary. “My first job was at a Planned Parenthood, and I started working there the week Roe v. Wade was decided … I’m standing here to get the attention of national leaders that should be working for us,” she said.
While there were many women of varying ages, there was a lack of male presence. The protesters spoke to this in their chants, saying, “We need the men too,” and urged all people passing by to join.
One strong male presence was Kirk Linn’s father, Jerimiah Miller, who when asked about his thoughts on the protest, spoke to the multidimensional roles women have in all aspects of everyone’s lives, whether it be the working class, mothers, teachers, or nurses, and so on. Miller also demonstrated his views on choice in his chants, saying, “It’s your choice, that’s the point,” when cars were unresponsive to the protesters and did not join in on the honking from passing cars.
Because of the location of the protest, Five Corners, there was a lot of attention gained from pedestrians, cyclists, and cars passing by, which allowed for a larger amount of witnesses to the political activism.
“Five Corners has always been a communal place to protest,” Graysen said. “It is a backbone for the Island’s social justice spirit.” This spirit was present in chants frequently heard among the crowd, that followed along with the narrative of “Get your laws off my body,” “Healthcare shouldn’t be illegal,” “Pro-choice doesn’t discriminate,” and “No justice, no peace.”