Hundreds gathered by the steps of the Broome County Courthouse on Saturday, Oct. 2 to protest restrictions on reproductive rights.

Binghamton’s protest was part of a nationwide Women’s March in each state ahead of the Supreme Court convening on Oct. 4. The “Defend Our Reproductive Rights” demonstrations were organized following the passage of Senate Bill 8 in Texas, which bans any abortions following the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The bill also allows for private citizens to receive a minimum of $10,000 if they successfully sue someone who has provided or aided in the provision of an abortion after approximately six weeks.

The rally was sponsored by the National Women’s March group, and locally organized by Indivisible Binghamton, Binghamton University College Democrats, Citizen Action of New York, Democratic Women of Broome County, Broome County Young Democrats and the Southern Tier Women’s Health Services.

By 2 p.m., around 200 protestors had gathered on the field in front of the Courthouse, and the phrase “Defend Reproductive Rights” was spelled out in letters laid on its steps. The rally opened with a speech by Lori Wahila, co-lead of Indivisible Binghamton, a countywide progressive group that came about after the 2016 election.

“Today all across [the United States] there are over 650 marches of these rallies happening today,” Wahila said. “Why are we here? Because the right of people’s body autonomy — to make our own decisions about our healthcare and abortion rights — are being attacked.”

The crowd booed as Wahila described Senate Bill 8 and its lack of exceptions for abortions in cases such as rape, incest or a mother’s health.

“I was in high school when the passage of Roe v. Wade first gave women the right to have a legal and safe abortion,” Wahila said. “I was in college when it first became legal for women to run in a marathon. I was already working in my first job after college when, finally, women could not be fired for the ‘offense’ of being pregnant.”

After Wahila described the possibility of losing such “hard-fought rights,” she and the crowd chanted, “We can’t go back. We won’t go back.”

Next, Priya Pindiprolu, president of BU’s College Democrats and a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, spoke. Pindiprolu described her 12-year-old self being told by her aunt and uncle that she could not participate in a post-wedding religious ceremony due to being on her period.

Years later, Pindiprolu said she learned that the religious tradition had actually originated as menstruating women being worshipped and that menstruating was once regarded as sacred, meaning women weren’t expected to go to temple.

“So how do we go from being worshipped to being shamed?” Pindiprolu said. “Honestly, it’s simple. Our bodies and reproductive systems have been stigmatized so much over the years due to the misogynistic and patriarchal ways of our society.”

Pindiprolu outlined the specific consequences an abortion ban would have on Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), who she said are exposed to limited sexual health education due to stigma and, as a result, exhibit less use of reproductive health care.

Next, Carly Norton, the Southern Tier regional representative for New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul, expressed her opposition to Senate Bill 8. Norton was followed by Binghamton City District 3 Councilwoman Angela Riley.

“Unfortunately, we are here once again gathered to raise our voice to fight the symptoms of oppression, classism, racism and misogyny that continue to bind and limit our rights,” Riley said. “My body, my choice.”

Riley stressed the importance of pushing voting rights to prevent laws such as Senate Bill 8 from being passed in the future.

Also among the speakers were BU professors, including Diane Sommerville, a professor of history, and Julia Walker, associate professor of art history.

“The cruelty is the point,” Walker said. “It’s no mistake that Texas [Gov.] Greg Abbott, when called upon to justify forcing rape victims to carry resulting pregnancies to term, said that it wouldn’t be a problem because he will ‘eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.’“

Walker cited reported rape statistics in Texas, which she stated included 15,000 cases of rape, more than many other states in the nation, and reminded the audience that the cost of banning abortions would be “too high.”

Peg Johnston, founder of Southern Tier Women’s Health Services, an organization that provides abortion services and reproductive health care in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, spoke toward the end of the event. Johnston called upon the audience to help erase the stigma around abortion.

“[Patients] don’t call and say ‘I’d like to exercise my rights, can you put me in,’” Johnston said. “They don’t say that, they say ‘abortion.’ But we as a society, not necessarily the group right here, we won’t say the word abortion. I want you to say it now — abortion.”

As the rally ended, organizers advised attendees to vote and distributed voter registration forms and pamphlets for those interested in getting involved.

Bonnie Simmons, 70, an attendee from Binghamton, described her motivations for attending the event. Simmons wore a sign draped over her that read “Abortion rights are human rights.”

“I remember when abortion was illegal, and I knew so many people who had an abortion who were frightened to death, but they had to do it anyway,” Simmons said. “Then it became legal, and I knew women who had abortions and then later went on to become doting mothers when it was the right time for them. So it’s about women’s rights. This GOP, Texas thing, is anti-woman. Period.”