About 5,000 people endured heavy rain at the state Capitol on Monday to advocate for the elimination of legalized abortion as part of Washington’s March for Life rally.
The event marked the group’s 40th annual protest of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that decriminalized abortion in 1973. It follows the March for Life in Washington D.C. on Friday in which President Donald Trump pledged his support for eliminating abortion.
Those gathered in Olympia lined the steps outside the Legislative Building and spilled into the street to hear a handful of Republican lawmakers speak on the issue.
Included in their protest was opposition to two bills in the legislature. One would make it an unfair practice for employers to deny employees free contraception; the other would ask the Washington State Health Care Authority to reimburse certain medical expenses for low-income women.
“Paying for abortion on our insurance with our premiums and our money is unacceptable,” said state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard. “No other person has the right to take another person’s life. I don’t care who they are.”
State Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, also addressed the crow.
“These bills take away our ability to protect life,” Short said. “We need to start and support choice for what we believe and what God believes.”
Democrats, spurred on by their new Senate majority, have rallied behind the current legislative efforts. Both bills received hearings Monday morning.
“Protecting a woman’s right to make health care decisions over her own body and right to council with health care providers directly is just a fundamental right,” said state Rep. Laurie Jenkins, D-Tacoma.
People attending a counter-protest that formed opposite the March for Life rally voiced that belief among others in favor of retaining access to abortion.
Their shouts were drowned out by the thousands of anti-abortion advocates.
Nate Lloyd, who studies music at the University of Washington, said that fighting abortion was “the only cause I care about deeply enough to do something about.”
“The more medical technology advances, the harder it is to defend the idea that fetuses are ... just a blob of cells,” Lloyd said.
Other attendees were encouraged by Trump’s recent appearance at a similar march in the nation’s capitol.
“We’re excited he’s with us because we’ve been fighting this issue for a long time,” said Milisa Sieman, an Auburn resident who works helping to prepare homes before they are put on the market.
Washington and New York are the only two states which allowed women to get abortions by request prior to Roe v. Wade.
More than 20 counties in the state do not have clinics that provide abortions, according to one study, leaving 15 percent of women without access to the procedure.