Dancer Dezzia Payne (left) and dance instructor Anneka Shaw (right) from Yes Honey Studio in The Grove lifted people's spirits with their performance during the STL Women's March abortion rights rally on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 at the World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri. In the background are DJ Maxa (left) and DJ Prospect Out Hrr. 

Fifty years ago, on Jan 22, 1973, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion across the United States. This past June, however, that decision was reversed, leading states including Missouri to declare abortions illegal within their borders. 

Despite that reversal, the mood at Sunday’s Women’s March gathering to commemorate Roe’s 50th anniversary was not entirely somber. Hundreds of people gathered in Forest Park’s World’s Fair Pavilion to remember the years of activism between the passage of Roe and today, and to plan the future of the abortion-rights movement in Missouri. 

There were speeches given, and attendees were asked to donate to groups like Missouri Abortion Fund–but there was also dancing, led by dancers from Yes Honey Studio, to songs like Doja Cat’s “Woman” and Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul.” 

Dana Kelly, the Executive Director of the St. Louis Women’s March, acknowledged that the celebratory mood might seem odd–but she considered it a critical part of the battle. 

“Once we leave here, we all go back to the fight again, a lot of us by ourselves,” she said. “So it’s very important to me that we find joy in what we are doing. We want to make sure that we celebrate each other. Just as much as we fight, it is important that we smile together, as well.” 

And that struggle hasn’t been an easy one: even prior to the fall of Roe, Missouri had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, and most Missouri abortion patients got the procedures out-of-state. Now that abortion is entirely illegal in the state, though, local advocacy groups have stepped up their efforts to overcome logistical barriers to getting pregnant people out-of-state for abortions. 

Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 marks the 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned it this summer by leaving abortion bans up to the states. Guest speaker at the STL Women's March Rev. Dr. Love Holt said now that Missourians are living under a total abortion ban young people fear they no longer have access to birth control, but they still do at this time. She said Missourians deserve access to abortion and doulas, pregnancy doulas, abortion doulas, grief doulas and post-partum doulas whether or not they choose to carry a pregnancy.

In a report released Friday by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, the group shared that they have distributed about half a million dollars in abortion aid to about 5,000 patients, alongside 2 million from outside abortion funds. 85% of that aid came post-Roe. They've seen a spike in patients traveling from outside the region to the Hope Clinic in Granite City, as well, where at this time about half of the patients served are from outside Missouri and Illinois. 

The weight of these abortion bans, as Dr. Love Holt explained at Sunday’s rally, isn’t being felt equitably across the population. “We know all of this falls hardest on my community, on Black and Brown and Indigenous women, and our trans siblings, and working mothers,” she said. Planned Parenthood’s data backs that up: about 70% of patients who required aid through the Regional Logistics Center to access reproductive care this year were women of color. 

Holt added, though, that this moment could be an opportunity to advocate for stronger reproductive-rights laws than Roe ever provided. “Even with the legal protection offered under Roe, too many Missourians were denied access to safe abortion care—forced to travel hundreds of miles, spend thousands of dollars, risk their lives and jobs to take days off of work, risk staying in abusive relationships or carrying unintended pregnancies to term,” Holt said. “In this post-Roe world, we have the chance to build something better—to build something more. Missouri deserves meaningful, liberated abortion access—Missourians deserve access to birth control, to doulas…whether or not they choose to carry their pregnancy.”

Anti-abortion activists, however, also hope to advance their cause further post-Roe. As President of the Board of Aldermen Megan Green pointed out at Sunday’s rally, “We know that the overturning of Roe isn’t the final step.” 

“There’s already a bill that’s been filed in the Missouri Senate,” she said, “That would criminalize a lot of forms of birth control, and criminalize a lot of forms of assisted reproductive technology.” 

On the national level, House Republicans have so far passed two anti-abortion bills in what Congresswoman Cori Bush called “a blatant attempt to lay the groundwork for a national abortion ban.” 

At Sunday’s rally, Dana Kelly hadn’t given up hope–not just for abortion rights, but for better access to other forms of reproductive and maternal healthcare.

“There are a lot of things that are out of our control, that you can’t help but be sad about,” Kelly said, but added that she and her fellow organizers “want people to know that we will have something to celebrate.” 

“The things that our parents fought for, that our parents’ parents fought for, will come to fruition, while we’re alive–and even more so for our children and their children.” 

Anneka Shaw (hailing from Surrey, England), a dance instructor at Yes Honey Studio in The Grove, one of the STL Women's March partners for an abortion rights rally, encouraged everybody to "Love their bodies, move their bodies, engage with music," in spite of the repressive laws against women's bodies and women's health care in the state of Missouri on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 at the World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri. DJ Maxa mixed musical selections throughout the program.  Learn more, read Roe at 50: Celebration and resistance.

🎵Ganglandparty by @tef_poe

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