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Protests in support of women's reproductive rights to take place Downtown Saturday

lebanon abortion protest
Jolene Almendarez
Protesters gathered outside Lebanon City Council Chambers in May before an abortion ban was passed in the city.

Parts of downtown Cincinnati will see activists Saturday in support of health care rights and abortion access. The Cincinnati STAND for Reproductive Freedom event is in solidarity with similar ones across the country, leading up to the U.S. Supreme Court reconvening Monday. Later this year, the court is set to take on a challenge to Roe v. Wade over a 2018 Mississippi law that prohibits all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, “except in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality.”

Local organizers say safe, legal abortion is more than a women's issue — it's a health care issue important to everyone. Community organizer Kelly Riley said the issue is intersectional, disproportionately impacting low-income people who may not have the means to travel elsewhere to get abortion and health care services.

"As we've created more space for other communities to speak about their personal identities and how abortion access relates to them, it has become a much broader topic," she said. "So we're kind of moving away from the idea of abortion as a woman's issue, and making sure it's more inclusive to all members of the community who need these important rights to be secured by proper legislation."

In particular, she points out how the Supreme Court's decision not to challenge SB8 — the controversial "heartbeat bill" that bans abortions in Texas after six weeks — leaves the door open for the same kind of legislation to be enforced in Ohio.

Governor Mike DeWine signed a similar bill in 2019 but it's not currently being enforced because of a stay issued by a judge in March.

Nevertheless, the Lebanon City Council in Warren Countypassed an abortion and abortion provider ban in the city in May.

Community organizer Billie Mays said, "We do hope that we are bringing awareness to what's going on specifically in Texas, but this is even here in Ohio … they're also pushing it (an abortion ban) in Mason - that exact legislation that they passed in Lebanon. And they're trying to push it in the next few weeks."

Mays saysSaturday's event is a standing protest where people are encouraged to bring signs and chairs to line the streets with messages of support for health care and abortion providers. The line-up will begin at Fountain Square, work it's way toward City Hall, and end at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

"That is going to get our messages across. People are going to very clearly see why we're there," Mays said, noting the event allows for social distancing and encourages face masks.

Community organizer Andria Carter says abortion laws are currently only providing scrutiny to women and do not have any consequence for the role men play in pregnancies. That's why she's helping organize the event.

"This one aspect of a women's health is being controlled by the government," she said. "Any other time, we go to a doctor, we don't have the federal government looking over our shoulder. If we need a mammogram, if we need a pap smear, if we're having issues of where we need a hysterectomy … government is not involved at all in those decisions. So why are you involved in this?"

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.