Steamboat Springs rallies for abortion rights

A group holds signs protesting strict anti-abortion laws, which have been passed around the country, at the Rally for Productive Rights on Saturday, Oct. 2. l Alison Berg/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Sheryl Schliske hopes to never see younger generations have to go through what her generation experienced when seeking an abortion decades ago.

Schliske, 71, was 23 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Roe v. Wade, effectively granting a choice to legal abortions without excessive government control.

Before 1973, Schliske said she knew women who had to travel abroad, use coat hangers or seek out unsafe procedures in back alleys if they wanted an abortion.

“A lot of young women died or got severely injured or were shamed,” Schliske said. “We just don’t want that to happen to any of these young ladies that are here today.”

Joined by about 200 others, Schliske marched from West Lincoln Park to the historic Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs on Saturday to rally for reproductive rights and protest strict anti-abortion laws being passed around the country.

The rally was hosted by the Women’s March on Steamboat Springs, a local branch of a national activist group that advocates for women’s rights. Participants waved signs with pro-choice slogans and listened to speeches from reproductive rights activists around Routt County.

“One month ago, the Supreme Court blatantly ignored decades of precedent by allowing Senate Bill 8 to go into effect, effectively blocking people from accessing abortion care,” said Amy Dickson, chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “While we are witnessing the most dangerous attacks on abortion rights in nearly 50 years, public approval for Roe v. Wade reached record high levels.”

Dickson specifically referenced a recent law passed in Texas banning abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy. The Supreme Court opted not to intervene to stop the law.

“Our goal is to have a world where children are born into families that are emotionally and financially ready for them,” said Kathleen Wasserman, organizer at Choose When, a Steamboat-based organization that provides long-acting reversible birth control to lower-income people in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

In a speech she delivered at the event, Wasserman said the best way to prevent abortions is to provide easy access to reliable birth control.

“We don’t want a world where women are forced to carry an unintended and unwanted pregnancy and are forced to go through child birth,” Wasserman said. “That’s not right.”

Chelsie Holmes, a confidential advocate with Advocates of Routt County, told the crowd she worked at an abortion clinic before joining Advocates and believes strict abortion laws are less about protecting the unborn and more about controlling the bodies of those who can get pregnant.

“When abusers feel their power slipping away, they escalate,” Holmes said. “That is what this law is about in Texas. They’re escalating, they’re kicking and screaming to maintain the power that they have and to regain the power that they have lost because of the activism that we have been doing all these years.”

Two women also dressed in costumes referencing “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a novel by Margaret Atwood based on a dystopian society in which women are forced to produce children for men.

Two women stand in front of the historic Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs as part of a protest against strict anti-abortion laws across the country. They were dressed as handmaids from the novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margarent Atwood. Alison Berg/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We thought it was important to make a statement that these little incremental infringements on our rights can lead to really large impact and catastrophic results in the future,” said Stephanie Kriegel, one of the women in costume. “You start out with these little things, and then you get what’s happening in Texas, which is no longer a little thing.”

Adia Clark Lay, a Steamboat Springs High School student who helped organize the event, said she did so because she values reproductive choice as a teenager not prepared to have a child.

“I can’t imagine having a kid right now,” Clark Lay told the crowd. “My career, my education, both would be over.”

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