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Some of the 100 people of all ages who gathered at Plaza Park in Brattleboro on June 24 to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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In Brattleboro, a backlash to a seismic Supreme Court ruling

More than 100 turn out for rapid response rally after Roe repeal

With additional reporting from Jeff Potter and VTDigger’s Kevin O’Connor.

BRATTLEBORO—Protests and vigils are not an unusual sight here, but this one was different.

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court eliminating the federal right to abortion on June 24, more than 100 people gathered on a hot and sunny Friday afternoon in Plaza Park to denounce the decision as well as to support Vermont’s efforts to protect abortion rights.

The crowd, lining the sidewalk overlooking “Malfunction Junction” during the peak of the evening rush hour, featured the usual folks that go to Brattleboro’s protests and vigils.

It included area legislators such as Reps. Emile Kornheiser and Mike Mrowicki, gubernatorial candidate Brenda Siegel, congressional candidate Issac Evans-Frantz, and State Senate candidate Wiche Artu. Local clergy members Scott Couper and Susie Webster-Toleno, both United Church of Christ ministers, participated.

There were parents with strollers, pamphleteers advertising more action at Brattleboro’s upcoming Fourth of July parade, women taking turns leading chants with a megaphone and, shouting along, a blue furry puppet identified as Mikey Monster.

“The Supreme Court has betrayed a lot of my friends,” said a masked voice behind the puppet. “I have to stand up.”

The assemblage also included many young women representing the two generations of American women who grew up in a nation where access to contraception, reproductive care, and bodily autonomy were rights enshrined under federal law — rights now facing an uncertain future after the Supreme Court ruling.

There were no speakers at this rally. None were needed. The mood was equal parts sadness and outrage.

“I’m so angry,” said Nancy Braus, owner of the nearby Everyone’s Books. “We’re going to get a whole lot of unwanted children, and be a 19th-century country in the 21st.”

And aside from a couple of trucks whose male drivers shouted obscenities at the protestors as they passed, most of the passers-by honked their horns and gave the thumbs-up in approval.

Similar rallies were held on June 24 in Bennington, Rutland, Montpelier, and Burlington, and additional rallies were around Vermont, and the nation, the next day.

For some, a muted celebration

The ruling returns control of the abortion issue to individual states. As of June 28, the procedure is banned in at least seven states, with a number of other states scrambling to activate, enact, or pass new restrictions in a new legal landscape.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, 70 percent of Vermonters support access to abortion, with 26 percent opposed and 4 percent neutral.

That 26 percent celebrated the ruling out of the public eye.

In a statement posted on June 24 on the website of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne urged Catholics in Vermont to “ponder the mystery of Christ’s love in light of today’s ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court which overturns Roe v. Wade and to use that image as a means of forming our response amongst ourselves and in the greater community.”

“While we can rightly applaud the decision of the Court, we must also be vigilant to avoid any language that will further inflame the present public response,” the bishop said.

Vermont state law permits full access to abortion, and a referendum question on the ballot in November, Proposal 5, will let voters decide whether to enshrine the right in the state constitution.

Acknowledging Vermont’s statutes and the impending constitutional amendment vote, Coyne wrote that he will “soon be issuing two pastoral letters, one to address the serious issues raised by the effort to amend the State Constitution, the other as to how we as Catholics need to continue to promote a culture of life in which we seek to protect all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and, in particular, to provide pregnant women and families with the support they need to always choose life.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #670 (Wednesday, June 29, 2022). This story appeared on page A1.

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