As Jennie Ferrare stood in front of the crowd in downtown Portland on Tuesday evening, her children sat nearby in a red stroller with a Planned Parenthood sign on the front.

“I care, because I’m a mother and I’m a mother by choice,” Ferrare said into the megaphone. “I became a mother when I wanted to become a mother, thanks to organizations like Planned Parenthood who provided me with reproductive care. I know from having two traumatic births that pregnancy and parenthood should not be forced upon anyone.”

Ferrare and other speakers addressed hundreds who rallied for abortion rights outside the federal courthouse and marched through the city in the wake of a report that suggested the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The speakers shared stories from their personal and professional lives.

Eunice Nuna, a refugee from Kenya and the executive director of Wounded Healers International, an organization for survivors of sexual violence, said the draft opinion leaked this week would not stop abortions, even in places where they would become illegal. What would change, she said, is whether people have access to safe abortion.

“Every day, during my work, I come across many women who were survivors of sexual violence, who are taking care of children they got from rape,” Nuna said. “Others are pregnant. They deserve safe abortion. Their stories are very painful.”



City Councilor Victoria Pelletier, who represents District 2, stressed the importance of local elections and highlighted racial inequities in accessing abortions.

“Attacks on reproductive rights is, and always has been, rooted in white supremacy and exploitation of Black women, and placing women’s bodies in the service of men,” Pelletier said.

One speaker said she talked to Sen. Susan Collins in 2018 in advance of the confirmation vote that put conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. The woman said she told Collins about her grandmother, who had an abortion on her kitchen table in the 1900s, and about her own experience decades later, getting an abortion in a doctor’s office.

The crowd booed at the mention of the senator.

“Her fault!” someone shouted.

“Can’t go back,” others chanted. “Can’t go back.”


Protesters carried cardboard signs with their messages  “Abortion is health care” and “Bans off our bodies” — and chanted together.

“What is abortion?” Ferrare shouted.

“A right,” the crowd fired back.


Earlier in the day, before the rally, Laura Huff of Westbrook came to Planned Parenthood to become a volunteer. She said she also volunteered for the Clinton campaign in 2016 and had many conversations about abortion with potential voters on their doorsteps.

“We need to talk about it more often,” Huff said. “Abortion isn’t just willy-nilly getting rid of kids, it’s important health care for women.”


Huff said she was “emotionally exhausted” from the news Tuesday. Even though abortion is relatively accessible in Maine, she’s afraid the Supreme Court’s potential action will further stigmatize abortion and endanger future access.

“I have a grandchild that’s coming in October,” Huff said. “My very first grandchild, I’m so excited about it. So I’m here not because of me, or my daughter necessarily, it’s my granddaughter. We have to support Roe v. Wade.”

Paige Thurston, 18, center, joins a chant of “my body, my choice” at a protest in support of abortion rights in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, outside of the federal courthouse in Portland on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Lea Yere, a 20-year-old business major at Southern Maine Community College who is originally from the Ivory Coast, was waiting for the bus downtown Portland. She said she supports access to abortion.

“Taking care of a child is something that is difficult,” said Yere.

People who are pregnant or have children “need resources,” Yere said. “Especially for a woman of color. … Having to ban abortion is making it difficult for people in our community, to have resources to help them.”

Ream Elemekki works in downtown Portland near the Planned Parenthood clinic, and said she sees people protesting against abortion there. She said the Supreme Court decision could lead to bigger protests and “more animosity.”


“I think it’s very sad that this day and age. … I think it’s eventually up to the women,” she said.


Kelsey Duarte was visiting downtown Portland from Savannah, Georgia, on Tuesday afternoon. In her state, lawmakers almost passed a law banning abortion after six weeks. She was afraid that overturning Roe would bolster efforts to pass similar restrictions across the country.

Sarah Barr, of Scarborough, holds up a sign critical of Sen. Susan Collins at a protest in support of abortion rights in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, outside of the federal courthouse in Portland on Tuesday. Barr said it was the first rally she has attended in support of abortion rights. “Doesn’t sound like it will be the last, though,” she said. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

She said if people want to support the lives of children and babies, “go for more health care to kids … as opposed to making them be born into these families that can’t give them what they need.”

Nicole Clegg, senior vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, said the local Planned Parenthood is preparing for an increase in calls from other states, where the decision this summer will activate “trigger laws” in 19 to 26 other states, making abortion harder or impossible to access.

“People are going to turn to states like Maine,” Clegg said. “We’ve already seen it, with Texas. … Since that time we’ve had people traveling from Texas, to Maine, to access abortion here.”


But the people coming to Maine and other New England states for abortions and other reproductive health services are not representative of the entire population who will need abortion.

“Those are people who have means and ability to make it to Maine,” Clegg said. “There are a lot of people who are not going to be able to exercise their constitutional rights, around decision making and pregnancy, because they can’t afford it, they can’t get the time off and they don’t have child care.”

Hundreds gather for a protest in support of abortion rights outside of the federal courthouse in Portland on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The news and the rally did not appear to draw anyone to downtown Portland who was protesting against abortion access Tuesday afternoon.


But Karen Vachon, executive director of the Maine Right to Life Committee, a group that opposes abortion, also emphasized the importance of elections at the state level in light of the draft opinion.

“This decision goes back to the people,” Vachon said. “It goes back to the state, and we let the people decide, and I think a lot has changed really since Roe v. Wade. We have all the development with the ultrasound where now you can clearly see that it is a human life, it’s not a blob of tissue. A lot of people have come to see this issue differently and have changed on that. Maine, of all states, should be one that might be willing to embrace change.”

Vachon thinks it is possible that more people will come to Maine for abortions if Roe is overturned and other states ban the procedure. She said the Maine Right to Life Committee aims to educate people about abortion and the other options available in the case of a pregnancy.

“In terms of traveling to other locations to specifically have an abortion, it gives women time to really think about that decision,” Vachon said. “I think a lot of times what women need in this process is to be able to think the whole thing through, No. 1, and No. 2, to completely know that they have other options so it doesn’t have to be an abortion.”

Staff Writers Rachel Ohm and Megan Gray contributed to this story.

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