Following local protest, residents weigh in on overturning of Roe v. Wade

Over 100 people gathered for a rally in support of women's rights and protest the overturning of Roe V. Wade Sunday afternoon, July 3, 2022 near the historic Butler County court house on High Street in Hamilton. Multiple speakers, several running for political office around the state, addressed the crowd. Chants such as "We won't go back" and "My body, my choice" were repeated by the crowd. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Over 100 people gathered for a rally in support of women's rights and protest the overturning of Roe V. Wade Sunday afternoon, July 3, 2022 near the historic Butler County court house on High Street in Hamilton. Multiple speakers, several running for political office around the state, addressed the crowd. Chants such as "We won't go back" and "My body, my choice" were repeated by the crowd. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Both sides of the abortion rights debate were featured publicly in Hamilton over the recent holiday as pro-choice protesters convened around the Butler County Courthouse a day before Butler County Right To Life marched in the city’s 4th of July parade.

Sunday’s pro-choice gathering, organized by local advocates Tiffany Harmon and Brittany Hacker with support from the Butler County Democratic Party, was meant to protest “...last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision eliminating a woman’s right to obtain an abortion,” a spokesperson said.

“We wanted to make sure that our voices were heard here locally in Butler County as to our support for people who can become pregnant and their opportunity to make their own decisions regarding their own healthcare,” said Kathy Wyenandt, Butler County Democratic Chair.

The Supreme Court’s decision made way for Ohio’s on-the-books but not-yet enforced “heartbeat bill” to take effect, essentially outlawing all abortions in the state after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected — usually around six weeks after conception.

“It’s dreadful. We believe [that] it’s terrible,” said Wyenandt, who added that six weeks is often not long enough for a woman to know if she is pregnant, and that the new ban doesn’t grant exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Wyenandt then referenced a Friday article from the IndyStar, which told the story of a 10-year-old Ohioan who traveled to Indiana for an abortion after being denied care in Ohio because she was over six weeks pregnant.

“That is just a horrifying sentence to place on a young person — or anyone at all who was raped and becomes pregnant as a result of it — to have to carry that child to term,” Wyenandt said.

According to Wyenandt, the crux of the protester’s message is to “...vote, volunteer and to get involved.”

“Every single election matters,” Wyenandt said. “From city council all the way up to [the] Statehouse, we’ve got to make sure to pay attention to who we’re voting for and what they stand for. That was the ultimate message.”

Wyenandt estimated that there were over 150 pro-choice protesters, along with former Dayton mayor and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley, who spoke before the crowd. There were no counter protesters.

On Monday, however, Butler County’s Right to Life group had a public demonstration of their own, taking their annual place in Hamilton’s 4th of July Parade for the first time since Roe’s reversal and the enforcement of Ohio’s heartbeat bill.

Patty Newman, the coordinator of Butler County Right to Life, said public opportunities like the parade are vital for her organization.

“It’s extremely important that our community knows that we exist,” Newman said. “And, that it’s our hearts’ desire to educate and advocate for life in our community, life at every level, that we believe begins at conception.”

For Newman, the reversal of Roe makes way for a chance to “encourage that culture of life once again in our families and community.”

For local women who find out about their pregnancy after six weeks, Newman said Butler County Right to Life wants to “expand that vision [as an] opportunity for life.”

“Abortion is not the only option,” Newman said.

Butler County Right to Life has other public displays planned, as well, Newman said. The organization will be hosting prayer and passing out literature outside Hamilton’s Planned Parenthood on July 9th in order to promote what Newman describes as life affirming actions.

“There’s this culture, I believe, that has said, ‘Oh, under these circumstances, it’s not a life. [But] under these situations – if I accept it and am overjoyed — [then] it’s a life,’” Newman said. “We’re trying to remove that thought process to allow others to consider life options.”

In response to the story of the young Ohioan seeking an abortion in Indiana, Newman said it was “absolutely horrific what that 10 year old has experienced and my heart goes out to her and to all who suffer rape or incest. We cannot turn a blind eye to the 10 year old, or any woman who is accosted in such a way where she finds herself pregnant.”

“But, we have to validate not only her life but the life that we could possibly engage inside of her,” Newman said. “I would ask, ‘Why was abortion the only option for that 10 year old?’”

“These are horrific exceptions to consider. But, nonetheless, there is a life,” Newman said.

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