Though women and men from all walks of life attended the rally and march sponsored by the The Maryland Abortion Access Coalition on May 14, Black women were significantly underrepresented in the crowd.

By Mylika Scatliffe,
AFRO Women’s Health Writer

Two weeks have passed since a draft of the Supreme Court opinion regarding abortion rights was leaked to the public. 

If the draft majority opinion is issued as the final decision, the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which for the last 48 years has protected abortion as a federal constitutional right, will be overturned. 

In light of the potentially devastating and far-reaching consequences, women in several cities, including Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and New York City gathered to bring attention to abortion rights.  

The Maryland Abortion Access Coalition sponsored a march and rally in Baltimore on May 14, 2022.  The event was sponsored by state abortion unity groups that have come together as the Maryland Abortion Access Coalition, according to the website.

Though Black women in the crowd were few and far between, those in attendance at the Baltimore rally and march spoke with the AFRO about why it was important for them to participate:

Wanda Watts, lead community engagement liaison for the Consent Decree Monitoring Team listens as speakers take to the rally mic demanding the protection of abortion rights.

“I’m here today because if they take away one right, they’ll go after the others. No one should have a say over what I do with my body or what my daughter and granddaughters do with their bodies.  What rights are next?  Interracial marriage? Same-sex marriage? It’s my hope that women will come out in massive forces to change this opinion. Why roll women back to a time when they were barefoot and pregnant, with no jobs, and having to be totally dependent on men? I’m disturbed by the lack of Black women present today. We MUST be aware of what’s going on, and not just about abortion rights. Just because you may not be directly affected by something now doesn’t mean you might not be in the future.” 

Wanda Watts, 69, lead community engagement liaison for the Consent Decree Monitoring Team

Holding part of a banner that read “BANS OFF OUR BODIES,” Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Communication and Marketing, 36-year old Dana Robinson, helped lead the march around Downtown Baltimore in support of abortion access.

“Honestly there is no reason we should have to be here. No one should be telling us women what to do with our bodies, especially not anyone who won’t be helping to carry, care for, and feed children we might have. When I had my abortion, I’d just graduated college and was getting my life started. The baby’s father was of no help once he found out, and I was not established enough, financially, or otherwise, to care for a baby.  If I’d been in a better position, more established and settled I absolutely would have had the baby. I’m just grateful I was able to access and afford an abortion because a lot of women don’t and can’t.” 

– Blair Timberlake, 24, Baltimore, marketing manager for medical cannabis

Charlene Rock-Foster, 55, administrative specialist had an abortion in her early 40s. She spoke about her experience and the importance of access to safe abortions at the Baltimore rally in front of City Hall on May 14.

“We need to change the narrative that it’s just young women, or poor women, or unmarried women who need and want access to abortions, because that’s not always the case. I had an abortion when I was in my early 40s. I was newly married and a stepmother. I loved my husband’s children as my own and they embraced me as a mother.  At the time we were focused on getting our son through college and our daughter was in high school. We felt our family was complete. I want my daughter to be able to make a choice without judgment and without shame. Most importantly I want her to be safe.   

I’m part of the faith community and the narrative in churches about abortion doesn’t create a safe space for discussion.  We can’t be silent or afraid to tell our stories. We need to come out of the shadows.”  

– Charlene Rock-Foster, 55, administrative specialist

I’m here because I want the people who make political decisions to know that abortion is a right under the Constitution and we’re not going down without a fight. I was in high school when Roe v. Wade was passed and even then, I knew how important it was.  I’m really worried that society is moving toward a White, male dominated autocracy.  It seems like we’re going backwards when it comes to human rights, women’s rights, and rights for people of color. It’s a scary time.” 

– Charlene Couch, 66, retired attorney

I had an abortion when I was 17 and it just wasn’t as easy as you think it would be. I was fresh out of high school and pregnant by the guy I lost my virginity to, who by the way also gave me an STD. I was living in Jarrettsville in Harford County, which is a heavily red county, and had a hard time finding somewhere to get an abortion and when I found one, one who would accept me.  I was 10 weeks along when the pregnancy was discovered and I checked Pennsylvania because I was living 5 minutes from the border, but the clinic there said I was too far along.  I ended up having to come down to the city (Baltimore) to have it done. 

The baby’s father was of no help, my parents didn’t know, and I had to take care of everything myself. The whole thing took about two weeks.  Even now, almost 10 years later, abortion access is still not exactly easy, even though Maryland is not a state that restricts access. You could possibly have to wait as long as a month!”  

– Wynshauna Levere, 26, nursing assistant and full-time student (courtesy photo)

“I just feel like I have to be here. This is my life.  This is all our lives.”  

– Arielle Johnson, 34, bartender

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