The crowd generated by a first time organizer, unaffiliated with any local reproductive rights groups, demonstrates a deep interest in protecting Roe v Wade in Rhode Island.
Thousands of women across the country held protests against the abortion bans that are storming through state legislatures this Tuesday at noon.
Here in Rhode Island, first time organizer Brianna Filippi managed to bring nearly 100 people to the Smith Street side of the Rhode Island State House at noon on a Tuesday. Most of those in attendance were first time protesters themselves.
“It’s just me,” said Filippi. “I’m just a Social Work grad student trying to make a difference… I registered [the event] on the NARAL website and I just blasted it on social media and hoped someone would show up.”
I asked her if she was pleased with the turn out.
“I am. My heart is so full right now, I am so pleased with the turnout,” said Filippi. “Originally I was posting on Facebook that even if it’s just me I’ll come – I’ll be the only one standing – it’s fine.”
Though the local protest was done in concert with protests called nationally, the issue resonates strongly in Rhode Island. On the same day that Alabama passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, the Rhode Island State Senate killed the Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) a bill designed to codify the federal abortion protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State Law. Though that bill was killed, the Reproductive Privacy Act (RPA) the House version of the same bill, is still in play in the Senate.
“We don’t want to just show solidarity for the other states,” said Filippi. “That is super, super important, but this is also going on in our state. We really want to get the Reproductive [Privacy Act] passed through the Senate, we want to get it to the [Senate] floor. Just because we are a ‘blue’ state, just because we have a Democratic governor that doesn’t mean it’s not happening here.
“The things that are happening in the South could very quickly start happening in the North,” continued Filippi. “It’s kind of heartbreaking that the reason why [the Reproductive Health Care Act] wasn’t passed – it was I believe [a vote of] five to four and four of the five were Democrats… That’s just really disappointing to me… We have four males, three of them are white, and they’re basically saying ‘You didn’t write this good enough – the woman that proposed it didn’t write this good enough.’
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“and for a Democrat to say that? It’s not cool.”
The rally had nearly 100 attendees. It’s important to note that this event was not called through the usual channels, like Planned Parenthood, Rhode Island NOW, The Womxn Project or the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom. The turnout was large for a weekday protest at noon. This seems to indicate that the issue resonates deeply with women concerned about the prospect of losing their reproductive rights.
In the video below, Brianna Filippi addresses the crowd.
In the video below, attendees were given the opportunity to speak to the crowd. I have almost, but not quite all the speakers in the video below:
After the rally was over, Filippi lead about 15 people to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio‘s office to speak with him about their concerns. In the video below you can see the protesters enter the Senate President’s office. The Senate President can be seen at his desk, looking somewhat surprised before an aide shuts the office door on the protesters. Filippi was told that the Senate President was in a meeting. Filippi made an appointment to meet with the Senate President that I don’t think anyone expects this meeting to actually happen.
I asked some of the women, including Filippi, what they hoped to communicate to the Senate President if they had met.
“He needs to bring this to the floor,” said Filippi. “He needs to support reproductive rights.”
“We need to know as women that [the Senate President] is supporting us and that no matter what, that our government is here to work for us, not against us. To protect us, not harm us,” said another woman.
“This isn’t just a theological issue,” said a third woman. “It’s a health care issue, an access issue, and a rights issue for women. Equal rights and human rights for women.”
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