In 1978, five years after the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade made access to legalized abortion in the United States a constitutional right, Denise Frey was in her second abusive relationship when she got pregnant.
That’s when she made a life-changing choice: to abort her pregnancy.
“I had to have an abortion to keep that child from being abused in that home. That was a serious choice I made, and I do not regret it,” Frey recalled of her decision.
Frey shared her personal story with a crowd of about 100 people Friday afternoon in front of the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton protesting the anticipated Supreme Court decision expected to come next month that is to reverse that monumental court case allowing women the choice to end their pregnancy.
“We knew this was coming. We knew it,” Frey told the gathering. “But the day is today. We cannot change what’s happened. We must remain vigilant — because I am.”
Frey, who is a Bremerton City Council member representing District 2, spoke emotionally about her own decision in 1978 — and about the choice her mother earlier wasn’t allowed to make.
“My mother gave birth to me in 1955 as a single professional woman,” she told the crowd. “She did not have the choice.
“Am I glad she gave birth to me? Of course. But if you knew my mother, you would have known that her life would have been a heck of a lot easier for her if she didn’t have to give birth and care for me.
“I wish my mother had at least that choice.”
Jennifer Chamberlin, a Bremerton City Council member who represents District 1, also spoke at the gathering. She quoted controversial early 20th-century women’s rights champion and birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, who said, “No woman can call herself free who does not control her body.”
Nearly 50 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, Chamberlin bemoaned that “here we are once again [confronting] a modern social purity movement. We have a war still raging on the bodies of women. Enough is enough!”
The council member said that states wanting to restrict reproductive rights also have more children living in poverty with single mothers and higher teen pregnancy rates. She said children from these states are much less likely to go to college and more likely to remain mired in generational poverty.
Chamberlin said despite the looming court decision, Americans can still make their voices heard by sending letters of appreciation to lawmakers in this state and elsewhere who support women’s rights.
“If you had an abortion, you can help destigmatize it by sharing your story and listening to others,” she said.
Shortly after, two women in the crowd spontaneously volunteered their own brief declarations:
“I had an abortion 52 years ago, and I’m still not sorry,” one said.
“I had an abortion 17 years ago,” added another.
A third Bremerton council member, Anna Mockler of District 6, said she was outraged when she heard the words of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling, “that the 14th Amendment only protects those rights that are deeply rooted in the history and tradition of our nation.
“Here are the rights that are deeply rooted in our history and traditions: slavery, segregation, women as property and people as property. This is our past and we have to acknowledge it. To quote James Joyce, ‘History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’”
Also speaking at the rally was Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler, who told the gathering that he is angry: “I am angry that we are here having to fight for what should be a universal right. But we will stand together and fight.”
Wheeler said that fight will include working with the state’s U.S. senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., to promote the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act in Congress.
In September, the U.S. House passed the bill that would protect abortion access nationwide by creating a statutory right for health care providers to provide abortion care free from restrictions and bans. On Feb. 28, however, the Senate failed to give the legislation the 60 votes it needed to overcome a filibuster.
State Sen. Emily Randall of the 26th Legislative District, who organized the Bremerton rally, said she is steadfast in her opposition to any anti-abortion bills introduced each year by Washington state legislators.
“We’ll fight alongside Sen. Patty Murray, who is an incredible activist,” Randall said. ” She’s going to do everything she can to pass the bill through the Senate, where it has been stuck.”
Those in the crowd listening to the government leaders speak were equally passionate in their support for reproductive rights.
“There’s a sign over there that says, ‘Seriously, my grandma already marched for this.’ I was one of those grandmas,” said Kathy Canderle, who drove to the demonstration from Kingston.
Jen Bakken, a Brownsville resident, said she was attending the rally with her sons.