As women’s marches protesting for reproductive freedoms took off across the country on Saturday, about 100 people gathered on the Jackson Town Square to rally for abortion rights. The event came 30 days before the November general election, and activists had a clear message: vote for pro-choice candidates.
“Let’s go to the polls and elect representatives who will stand for fairness and protect our most basic rights, who will make decisions based on what constituents want, rather than their own political and religious agendas,” Dominique Lohn said to the crowd.
Lohn is one of the four local women who organized the event. She and fellow organizers Danielle Shapiro, Caitlin Shea and Shelby Read think it’s important to speak up now, as abortion rights hang in legal limbo in Wyoming and as state judges consider a lawsuit blocking the state’s abortion ban.
The only clinic currently providing abortions in Wyoming – and to patients from eastern Idaho – is Jackson’s Women’s Health Center & Family Care Clinic. One of the speakers at the rally, Katie Noyes, is a doctor there and said she had just seen a patient who drove four hours from Hailey, Idaho to get an abortion.
“It’s not unusual for people to drive 3-plus hours from Riverton, sometimes Green River,” Noyes said.
She encouraged attendees to vote, but also to share their personal experiences with abortion. One local did just that: Grace Peck, an artist and a mother of two. She first started sharing her story publicly a year ago and said that, while it was scary to tell people like her dad and brother, she received a staggering amount of support.
Peck also felt all the more grateful for her access to abortions.
“I was allowed to be nothing but incredibly thankful to have been able to make that decision, to have my two beautiful children who I would not trade for the entire world or any past experience, on my terms when the time was right for me,” Peck said.
Local Democrats running for election this season were also invited to speak at the rally. They included Mike Yin, who’s running for reelection in the Wyoming House’s District 16.
“I do hope that every single one of you goes to the ballot box this year, but make sure that for two years and for every year after that, that candidate will vote pro-choice,” he said.
Another Democratic speaker, Liz Storer, is running for House District 23, and she’s trying to differentiate herself from her moderate Republican opposition, Paul Vogelheim, when it comes to abortion. Both candidates say they’re pro-choice, but Vogelheim says he’d support a popular vote for reproductive rights.
Storer said she doesn’t think people should need to vote on what she describes as a basic right.
“Do we vote on other protective rights? The right to equality? The right to due process? Should the freedom of religion be decided by popular vote?” Storer asked at the rally.
Vogelheim didn’t speak at the event, but he did attend. He said in an interview with KHOL that he’d prefer the people of Wyoming have a say on abortion than let the legislature decide.
“I’d rather have it go back to the people to decide as opposed to what I think is a growing right-wing faction in the legislature,” Vogelheim said.
The rally in the left-leaning Teton County didn’t see many counterprotesters from conservatives, like previous abortion rallies have. But it did bring together locals across generations.
Ivan Jimenez, a 25-year-old local activist, held a sign on the corner of the town square that read, “Not your body, not your choice.”
“I simply believe that people deserve bodily autonomy – it’s pretty simple,” Jimenez said.
Another attendee, Reade Dornan, is 81 and running for the local school board. She stood next to a sign that said, “For our grandkids.”
“I think I’ve been at this for 60 years – it never goes away,” Dornan said.
Early voting for Wyoming’s general election is open now. Wyomingites can vote in-person at various locations on Election Day or drop off ballots at the Teton County Administration Building on Willow Street before then. All mail-in ballots must arrive by Election Day.