SCOTUS abortion ruling prompts Bloomington demonstrations

Friday morning’s Supreme Court of the United States ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, prompted around 100 people to demonstrate later that evening, at the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse square, in downtown Bloomington.

The ruling also prompted a one-man demonstration the following day at Bloomington’s farmers market.

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 SCOTUS decision that concluded abortion is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Friday’s ruling concluded that it is not a constitutional right, which means states can enact laws that prohibit abortions.

Both demonstrations included light brushes with local law enforcement officers, but no arrests were made in either case.

On the courthouse square, demonstrators held signs signs with slogans like “Keep your theocracy off my democracy” and “Abortion is healthcare.” They shouted slogans like, “My body, my choice” and “Pro-choice united, we’ll never be defeated.”

A man with a sign that read “Mind your own uterus!!!” sauntered back-and-forth on the crosswalk, which slowed or stopped the northbound traffic on Walnut Street. When two Monroe County sheriff’s deputy SUVs rolled side-by-side up to the intersection, the man was undeterred. One deputy got out, ushered the man to the curb, returned to his SUV, and continued on his way.

At the farmers market on Saturday, Bloomington area resident Thomas Westgard started walking up and down the aisles wearing a purple T-shirt and holding a sign—both emblazoned with the same sentiment: “Legalize abortion and protest.”

Staff with Marshall Security, the private firm that provides security for the market, asked him to leave—signs with political messages are supposed to be confined to the market’s Information Alley. When Westgard didn’t leave, Marshall called Bloomington police.

The two officers who arrived gave Westgard just a verbal warning, which surprised and disappointed him. “I’m speechless,” Westgard said. “Are you sure you don’t want to cite me—I was kinda hoping to get a court date!” The officer told him they’d taken down his name, in case they had to return later in the day or next week.

Westgard told the officer, “I got arrested here three years ago for carrying a sign!” That incident, in November 2019, came in connection with protests against Schooner Creek Farm, due to the vendor’s ties to white supremacists. The prosecutor’s decision was to file no charges filed against Westgard, or the other five demonstrators who were arrested that day.

On Saturday, after logging one more lap through the market, Westgard left. He told The B Square he is not sure if he’ll return next Saturday. The political landscape will be changing so rapidly on the topic of abortion law, that it’s not clear what the most appropriate response might be, come next week, Westgard said.

Part of that political landscape for the state of Indiana includes a special session of the General Assembly on July 6—which had already been called by governor Eric Holcomb to sort out a tax refund plan. Friday’s SCOTUS ruling means that session could also include enactment of some kind of state law restricting abortion.

In a statement released on Twitter, Holcomb said, “The Supreme Court’s decision is clear, and it is now up to the states to address this important issue. We’ll do that in short order in Indiana.” Holcomb is a Republican.

Democratic Party nominee for the District 62 seat in the state house, Penny Githens, issued a statement saying, “I call upon the Indiana legislature to wait until after the elections to determine Indiana’s legislative reaction to today’s decision.”  Githens faces Republican Dave Hall in the Nov. 8 general election.

Releasing statements on Friday opposing the SCOTUS ruling were Bloomington’s mayor, Democrat John Hamilton, and the Monroe County Democratic Party (MCDP).

The MCDP statement quotes party vice chair Shruti Rana saying, “In this dark moment, we must join together in solidarity to support each other and our communities in the fight for equality.” The MCDP release also quotes state senator Shelli Yoder, and party secretary Ashley Pirini.

Hamilton is quoted in the statement saying, “As mayor of Bloomington, I pledge to fight alongside our Planned Parenthood, All Options Pregnancy Center, and other partners supporting the rights and choices of the Bloomington women and families we are proud to serve.”

Democrat Kerry Thomson, who will be contesting the mayorship in the 2023 election, issued a statement through her campaign’s Facebook page and appeared at Friday’s courthouse square demonstration, holding a sign that read, “Keep abortion legal.”

Photos: June 24-25, 2022

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