A large crowd of about 300 people marched through downtown Bend Saturday to support women’s rights and protest against the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, recently passed in Texas.
The Bend Women’s March, part of more than 600 marches across the nation Saturday, including one in Redmond, drew passionate participants. People of all ages marched together through Drake Park, along Bond Street and ending at the Deschutes County courthouse. Young girls wore shirts that said, “The Future is Female,” and others held signs that read, “Keep Your Laws Off My Uterus” and “Let’s Mess With Texas.”
Most participants wore face masks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Bend resident Cassandra Kehoe, an attorney, artist and activist who helped organize the march, said the goal Saturday was to send a strong message to the U.S.Supreme Court and lawmakers that any attack on women’s reproductive rights would not be tolerated.
“We are coming together and standing in solidarity,” Kehoe said. “We are here to rally and make sure there is available, affordable and accessible abortions for all people who need it.”
Kehoe said the legislation in Texas was a huge motivation for the march in Bend and the ones across the country. The Texas law bans abortions as early as six weeks, before some women know they are pregnant. The law was enacted in September and creates a system where members of the public can sue anyone who performs, or facilitates an abortion in Texas.
“That is legislation that effectively will be the blueprint for other states to put into place,” Kehoe said. “If we don’t speak out now it will continue to occur.”
Bethany Booth, a 30-year-old veterinary assistant, moved last week to Bend from El Paso, Texas. Booth held a sign at the march that said she moved to Oregon for “the lovely scenery” and for “the safe and legal abortions.”
Booth said she remembered feeling upset when the abortion ban was being debated earlier this year in Texas and how angry she felt when it became a law.
“I’m out here because my home state got hit hard with that ban and I don’t want to see it happen anywhere else,” Booth said.
Booth enjoyed participating in the march in her new town. She was encouraged to see the variety of ages, from children to older women, of people who have been fighting for women’s rights for decades.
“We need to keep everything our choice,” Booth said. “We need to keep everything in a person’s body, a person’s choice.”
Kim Gunderson, a 64-year-old Bend resident, joined the march Saturday wearing a pink knitted hat as a unifying symbol seen at all the marches and a sign that read, “My Body, My Choice.”
“My hope is that a lot of people will show up and let the world know women’s rights are the rights for all of humanity,” Gunderson said before the march.
Gunderson has participated in several marches and protests over the years in support of women’s rights. She hopes her activism inspires the younger generations, just as she was inspired by those older than her.
“I’m thankful for the women and men who came before me and have been fighting for this same cause,” Gunderson said. “I think we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”