PHOTO STORY: Demonstration held in Niles after Roe v. Wade overturned

Published 11:09 pm Friday, June 24, 2022

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NILES — “Reproductive freedom for all.” “Keep your laws off my body.” “Women have a right to choose.”

Those were some of the messages on picket signs Friday when dozens of people gathered at the intersection of Fifth and Main Street in downtown Niles for a reproductive rights rally in response to the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that protects a pregnant woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

Demonstrators cheered as drivers passing by honked their horns in solidarity. Rally organizer Jodi VandenHeede was pleased by the response from both demonstrators and passersby. 

“It lets everybody know who is on their side, who believes as they do.” she said. “That there’s really a lot of support for reproductive freedom for all. I think that’s really the reason we’re out here. To make sure that other people can see that there are people who think as they do.”

The overturning of Roe v. Wade activates abortion laws created before 1973. In May, Michigan Court of Claims judge Elizabeth Gleicher blocked Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortions after it was leaked that the Supreme Court would soon be overturned. The law cannot be currently enforced but the block is not a permanent solution.

Sarah Dunnem, who participated in a Mother’s Day reproductive rights demonstration at the same location, was happy to see and hear the support from the community.

“Last time we were here on Mother’s Day, there were so many people,” she said. “It was amazing to see everybody coming out and supporting. But this year we watched everybody kind of explode about how much they wanted to be a part of this, so we made it a little bit more public this year and we’re hoping for a lot better turnout this year. So far we’ve seen a lot more people honking. We’ve got a lot more people that have shown up with signs and a lot more familiar faces that we like to see. It’s been really nice today.”

The issue hits especially close to home for Dunnem, who herself had an abortion.

“That’s part of the reason why I’m standing out here,” she said. “We want to be able to have rights over our own bodies but right nobody paid attention to that and here we are today so that’s why we’re here. Six months ago, I was able to spend five weeks making sure that’s what I wanted before I got an abortion and now it’s not legal anymore. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, to make sure that everybody knows what’s going on and understands.”

The petition being circulated statewide by advocacy group Reproductive Freedom for All would add a Michigan constitutional amendment to the 2022 November election ballot for voters if it receives approximately 425,000 signatures statewide. The amendment – if passed – would ensure access to a broad range of reproductive health care, including abortion. 

“This is a family values issue,” said Karen Kemp, Niles resident and Chair of the South County Democratic Club. ”It is unconscionable to me that the government is dictating to us about our reproductive freedoms. I’m gonna stand behind Roe v. Wade and whatever we need to do because this is an extremely difficult decision for any family trying to make whether to take a baby to term or not. You need that option. What your decision is, is not my business.”

The petition process requires signatures to be signed on paper and in-person, not online. Readers seeking additional information regarding the petition or the issue itself can do so at