Record number of Alaskans turned out Saturday to support abortion rights

Thousands attend events in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer and Juneau

By: - July 12, 2022 5:00 am
Around 200 people attend the abortion rights rally at Marine Park in Juneau on July 9, 2022.

Around 200 people attend the abortion rights rally at Marine Park in Juneau on July 9, 2022. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

More than 4,000 people attended the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Alaska rally in Anchorage this past Saturday, making it the largest abortion rights event the nonprofit has ever held, according to its director. The Delaney Park Strip event was also the largest rally in Alaska against the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade to date. 

Other planned events in Fairbanks, Homer and Juneau held in response to the Supreme Court ruling saw around 1,000, 400 and 200 people, respectively. 

“It was just so wonderful to see so many people so actively ready to take action and be in this fight together and learn from each other,” said Rose O’Hara-Jolley, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Alaska.

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates is a nonprofit that advocates for and provides education about reproductive health in Alaska and five other states.

O’Hara-Jolley said several community, statewide and regional organizations participated in the Saturday events, including ACLU of Alaska, Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association (Four A’s), Native Movement, Northwest Abortion Access Fund, and domestic violence and abuse organizations.

Attendees had opportunities to learn about Alaska laws and policy surrounding abortion, write a letter to state legislators, and use ranked-choice voting to decide their favorite form of birth control (the IUD won).

At a ‘smash the plate-riarchy’ booth in Anchorage, O’Hara-Jolley said participants safely smashed hundreds of plates that were brought to the event or provided by Planned Parenthood. Working with Native Movement, the plate pieces will be turned into mosaics.

“They look really beautiful,” O’Hara-Jolley said. “All these colors and pieces of words, like ‘patriarchy’ and ‘oppression’ and ‘hands off.’”

The Alaska Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization, had planned a “gospel opportunity” in Anchorage at the same time and location as the Planned Parenthood event. O’Hara-Jolley described it as a small group. Right to Life did not return a request for comment. 

‘My body, my choice’

Several people spoke at the Juneau event in Marine Park, including Yolanda Fulmer, a Native women’s advocate and matriarch.

“As an Alaskan Native woman, I am also classified as disproportionate when it comes to violence against women stats. I hate that word ‘disproportionate,’ not only because it identifies the immense trauma Native women experience on a regular basis, but also how the bleep do you quantify proportionate violence against women? This should infuriate all of us that they’re even able to quantify violence done to us,” said Fulmer, who’s Łingít.

“For the past two weeks I have felt terrorized, traumatized, victimized, hopeless and exhausted,” Fulmer said, for a few reasons, including “from watching bodily sovereignty protection collapse.”

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade June 24, ending the federal right to abortion. Abortion remains legal in Alaska through the state constitution’s provision on privacy, but abortion-rights advocates say that right is fragile. 

“Our sovereign laws have always protected the right to choose for all women. We have always known that a woman suffering physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually is not ready to take on the sacred role of motherhood yet, and it’s best not to bring a child into the world under duress,” Fulmer said.

Attendees at a pro-abortion rights rally in Juneau on July 7, 2022, fill in a banner that says "Abortion is..."
Attendees at a pro-abortion rights rally in Juneau on July 7, 2022, fill in a banner that says “Abortion is…” (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)

Dara Rilatos sang a song called, “My body, my choice” at the Juneau event. She wrote it in 2019.

“The whole idea is, it’s my choice what I do with my body, whether it’s to reach out and touch you, or have it bear a child. That is my choice,” Rilatos said.

She said it’s important to maintain abortion access in Alaska.

“I have a lot of my own reproductive issues,” Rilatos said. “I’ve never had an abortion but if I were to get pregnant that could very well happen.” 

Next step

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Alaska is working on upcoming elections, O’Hara-Jolley said.

“We will be working to get pro-abortion, pro-sex-ed and pro-LGBTQ candidates elected in the November election, so we need volunteers to help us knock on doors and call on phones,” they said.

Through its endorsement process, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates last month endorsed Les Gara for Alaska governor and Jessica Cook for lieutenant governor.

Gara attended Juneau’s Saturday event, as did Heidi Drygas, who’s running for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. Many other candidates were present at the abortion rights rallies around the state. Mary Peltola, a candidate in Alaska’s special U.S. House election, and Pat Chesbro, who’s running for U.S. Senate, were at Anchorage’s event, along with several state legislative candidates.

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Lisa Phu
Lisa Phu

Lisa Phu covers justice, education, and culture for the Alaska Beacon. Previously, she spent eight years as an award-winning journalist, reporting for the Juneau Empire, KTOO Public Media, KSTK, and Wrangell Sentinel. She's also been Public Information Officer for the City and Borough of Juneau, lead facilitator for StoryCorps Alaska based in Utqiagvik, and a teacher in Tanzania and Bhutan. Originally from New York, Lisa is a first generation Chinese American and a mom of two young daughters. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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