Protesters rally at Indiana Statehouse in support of abortion access in Indiana

Jun. 26—INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of shouts rose above the crowd of protesters gathered in the Indiana Statehouse courtyard, voicing the anger and despair felt by Hoosiers in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Around 4,000 people attended the Decision Day Rally on Saturday, which was organized by Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, ACLU of Indiana and Women for Change, seeking to make their voices heard in support of legal abortions in Indiana.

Organizers knew this day was coming, following the leak of the Supreme Court's decision in May, and State Director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates LaKimba DeSadier said she and the organizers from the ACLU and Women for Change needed to make sure they were visible and able to connect with people once the decision was made.

Part of their fight to keep abortion access legal in the state is through organizing with others and encouraging people to get involved.

"From there, we figure out how we can mobilize, we figure out how we can educate, we figure out how we can get people to tell their own personal stories," DeSadier said. "We demand folks demand their elected officials to be accountable. And then we make it real hard for them to say that it's not our choice. That is the beginning. And then we take that voice to the polls."

The ACLU of Indiana will be using every tool at its disposal to fight against any abortion bans in the state, including activating their supporters across Indiana. Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy for ACLU of Indiana, said people should protest in response to make their presence known.

"It's important for people to rally like this so that our lawmakers know that we actually make up the majority of Hoosiers and that we've been backed into a corner, told not to speak up and we're done," Blair said. "We're over it. And also so that everyone here knows that they we've all got each other's back so they don't feel alone and they feel empowered to speak out."

Indianapolis District 5 City Councillor Ali Brown initially felt grief and anger in response to the Supreme Court's decision on Friday, and said she will work with every group and organization in the state to make Hoosiers' voices heard. But after feeling powerless then, she said the rally's turnout felt like a hug.

"I know 83% of Hoosiers support a woman's right to choose. Doesn't matter what the people inside the Statehouse say; 83%," Brown said. "And as long as all 83% show up to vote in November, we will take back our Statehouse and guarantee rights for women here in Indiana."

Michelle Ballem from Avon has been fighting for reproductive rights for 35 years and attended the rally. She believes every person with a uterus deserves the right to decide if they want to have children because she had to make that choice for herself.

"I had an abortion because the fetus died. And my body did not identify it. And I was getting sepsis that would have killed me," Ballem said. "Abortion was my option to be able to live. So when people make assumptions about women who have abortions, they need to stop and realize that somebody they love has had an abortion."

Kenny Walling came from Lafayette to protest and will continue to do so, along with making sure his peers at home understand why this decision is a big deal for everyone, not just women.

"I have a uterus. I'm a trans man. And if I were to ever be like raped or anything, I personally would not want to keep the child and I don't want to be forced," Walling said.

For Mary Stergar, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is personal. When she was nine years old, her mother died from a hemorrhage after she attempted an abortion with a coat hanger. She said this decision broke her heart.

"I'm 70 years old, but the future, the young people? Roe vs. Wade has been there for 50 years, and they're going to take it away," Stergar said. "It's the first time the Supreme Court's taking away our rights."

Rima Shahid, CEO of Women for Change, said those who are upset about the Supreme Court's decision should show out alongside the organization on July 6, the day of Gov. Holcomb's special session, and make their thoughts clear at the Statehouse.

"We need to make our voices loud," Shahid said. "We need to make our voices clear, as we just have, that we don't want to go back, that majority of people do not want to have restrictions on them and their bodies, and that's what we did today."