It’s normally a small group of anti-abortion protesters who gather each Friday in downtown Portland, where they try to discourage people from going into a Planned Parenthood clinic and preach to others as they walk by Monument Square.

But this Friday, the regular crowd of protesters was met by several dozen abortion rights supporters. Wearing mostly black, the abortion rights crowd was waiting with cowbells, drums, water bottles filled with spare change and tambourines.

“We’re going to use the power of sound to drown out their hateful rhetoric,” Jennie Ferrare, a local yoga instructor who helped organize Friday’s event, told the crowd. “If they yell at us, we’re going to use our instruments and song to respond.”

Last week, Politico reported about a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion signaling that the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that said the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion.

John Andrade, a street minister who speaks out against abortion in Monument Square on most Fridays, tries to talk with abortion rights supporters in Monument Square in Portland on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“Organizers of reproductive justice across the country are very tired,” Ferrare told the demonstrators. “We are doing our best, and we are outraged, just like you.”

When anti-abortion protesters arrived at Monument Square on Friday morning, they were quickly surrounded by the abortion rights supporters.

Then, John Andrade, a street minister from Brunswick who leads the Friday anti-abortion protests, picked up his microphone.

“They hate life, and they love death,” said Andrade, his voice amplified by a small speaker. “Murder never saves any lives.”

The crowd around him, including one person with a red megaphone standing face-to-face with Andrade, chanted, “My body, my choice!”

As abortion rights protesters chanted and made noise, anti-abortion protesters held copies of the Bible over their heads and stood beside tall cardboard signs comparing abortion to slavery and genocide.

Abortion rights supporter Isa Morton holds a sign near street minister John Andrade as he preaches into a microphone during a confrontational protest over abortion rights in Monument Square in Portland on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Among the abortion rights supporting crowd was Melissa Barnes, a mother of five who drove from Massachusetts. She was carrying a sign that said, “I chose to have my daughters and my daughters have a choice.”

“It’s not just about me,” Barnes said. “It’s about everybody.”

When Barnes was pregnant with one of her daughters, doctors told her very late in the pregnancy that her baby wasn’t likely to survive. Her doctor offered to terminate the pregnancy.

“I chose not to,” Barnes said. “It was the hardest decision I ever made in my life. She lived until she was about three and a half months old. And she died. … If my daughters were ever in those shoes, they have the right to make whatever choice they think is best.”

Isa Morton, also at Monument Square on Friday, is a Maine mother. Her daughter is almost 8.

“I feel compelled, a duty, to make sure that we’re protecting the freedom that we have,” Morton said. “There’s a lot of threat here, in the direction that we’re going. I have a daughter and I want to make sure we’re protecting the freedom that she’s due.”

Over the course of an hour, the crowd grew to about 50 people. Ferrare greeted latecomers with extra cardboard signs bearing pro-abortion rights messages.

There were also a handful of onlookers, including Jennifer Debatis, a senior at Maine College of Art and Design.

Debatis lives near Monument Square. She said she hears the anti-abortion protesters almost every Friday while she’s getting ready for class.

This Friday sounded much louder than normal.

“But I like this noise,” said Debatis. “It kind of drowns out all the hateful stuff.”


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