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Women’s March, March for Life held locally

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Copper Country residents march in support of abortion rights in one of numerous local marches nationwide as part of Sunday’s Women’s March.

HOUGHTON — On the weekend of the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, advocates on both sides of the issue rallied nationally and locally in hopes of shaping what will come after the landmark ruling was struck down last year.

Sunday, 50 years to the day of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that had legalized abortion nationwide, protesters in Houghton celebrated November’s vote to enshrine abortion rights in the Michigan constitution and called for similar protections elsewhere.

The local march was part of the annual March for Women, which held its national event Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Bigger Than Roe,” drew attention to the state and local legislation now determining reproductive rights.

“Women’s rights are important,” said marcher Rhonda Heusinkveld of Lake Linden. “They need to be heard. We shouldn’t be going backwards, back to the dark ages where women were being killed from backyard butchers, basically.”

In Michigan, where pre-existing state law would have barred abortion in most cases, voters passed Proposal 3, which affirmed the right to an abortion and other reproductive health care.

Newly in control of the state Legislature, Michigan Democrats have introduced several other measures this year. One bill would strike the 1931 abortion ban overruled by Proposal 3 from the books. Others would eliminate criminal penalties for medical providers who perform abortions.

Vicky Bergvall, co-organizer of the Houghton march, also touted measures passed in other states in 2022. Kansas voters rejected a measure that would have restricted abortion rights, while Kentucky voters rejected a measure that would have shielded the state’s abortion ban from legal challenges.

“When voters are asked, they answer yes to access, yes to our rights to our bodies, yes to lifesaving reproductive health care for women,” she said.

Bergvall said the patchwork of state regulations puts rights at risk for women who move to other states for school or a new job, or has a medical emergency in another state.

“Shouldn’t her rights to her own body go with her?” she said.

Co-organizer Susan Burack raised the possibility of partnering with anti-abortion groups on measures such as health care, pregnancy prevention and childcare support.

“I’ve been working for choice for over 50 years, and I won’t stop,” she said. “Every child should be a wanted child.”

The weekend also saw national protests by anti-abortion advocates. At the national Right to Life march in Washington, organizers focused on adding abortion restrictions at the state and national level, as well as swaying broader opinion against abortion.

With Roe no longer the law of the land, the march reflected their own change in focus. Instead of ending at the U.S. Supreme Court, the march’s new route also took protesters past the Capitol.

Locally, Michigan Technological University’s Students for Life group hosted a March for Life Saturday. Demonstrators walked from the Rozsa Center lawn to the Life Outreach Center in Hancock.

“The march is a peaceful demonstration to emphasize that the passing of Proposal 3 has not changed the truth; the most vulnerable among us deserve protection,” the group said in a message announcing the march.

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