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“They Have the Money. We Have the Truth and the Numbers”: Hundreds March for Abortion Rights in Detroit

Last weekend, 400 people in Detroit, Michigan protested the recent anti-abortion legislation passed in Texas. To defend abortion rights, we can’t rely on Democrats — we need to march in the streets with the power of the working class, unions, and oppressed.

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Supporters of abortion rights listen to speakers outside the 36th District Court in Detroit, Michigan
Photo: Jessica Prozinski

On Saturday, 400 people took to the streets in Detroit, Michigan, to protest the ultra-conservative Texas legislation SB8 banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. That day, people marched in over 600 cities and towns across the country, marking it the biggest day of action so far during the  Biden presidency. 

In Detroit, two separate events joined forces to present the strongest possible defense of abortion rights. While this coalition included both radical and liberal forces, each group was able to present their views. For instance, Jessica Prozinski, one of the main organizers of the event and an organizer with Detroit Will Breathe, spoke about the danger of relying on the Democratic Party to save abortion rights. A mass movement in the streets, politically independent of the Democrats and Repubicans, is the only way to defend abortion rights.

With a two-party system, the Democrats have no incentive to be anything but slightly less evil than the Republicans. They don’t even have an incentive to defend abortion rights, because abortion rights constantly being under threat is their biggest draw to get their base to the polls. Year after year. It’s when we step out of the well-worn, approved of, political channels, that people like us make history. They have the money. We have the truth and the numbers. We have to play to our strengths.

Prozinski’s message was in stark contrast to the focus and weight other speakers like State Senator Stephanie Chang and DSA members gave to elections, promoting the tried and failed notion that electing Democrats is the only way to save abortion rights . If this was true, then Democrats would have long ago protected abortion with federal legislation when they had majorities. The Democrats are weak, inconstant defenders of reproductive rights. 

Abortion provider Sarah Wallet addresses the crowd (Photo: Jessica Prozinski)

Abortion provider Sarah Wallet addresses the crowd (Photo: Jessica Prozinski)

Sarah Wallet, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Michigan, told the crowd that under SB8, “…to get an abortion they have a week, maybe two at best, to suspect they may be pregnant; confirm that they are in fact pregnant; make an appointment; have an ultrasound; wait 24 hours; and then have a second appointment with the same provider to comply with Texas law.”

Wallet also noted that Michigan has a 1931 pre-Roe ban on the books. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, access to abortion in Michigan would immediatey be in danger.

After the rally, marchers took to the streets for two and a half miles. Detroiters came out of stores along the march route to cheer and give thumbs up. Diners in Greektown raised their fists in support. 

You might be interested in: We Need a Mass Movement to Defend Abortion Rights and We Need It Now

When the crowd briefly stopped to occupy Campus Martius Park, Tristan Taylor of Detroit Will Breathe took the stage. Taylor asked participants to return for an event the following Friday organized by long-time Detroit residents demanding affordable housing and people’s control of the Covid money given to Detroit by the federal government. Taylor emphasized that Friday’s mobilization is a matter of local control of what the community knows is supposed to be their emergency funding. The demands set out are affordable housing, energy-efficient home repairs, and reparations for over-taxation of generations of Detroiters.

Following the march, participants were invited to stay for an open mic and strategy session. Speaker Tania Kappner is a veteran of the direct-action struggles in the 1990s to defend abortion clinics from Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group that blocked clinic doors with sit-ins. Kappner, who is a member of the civil rights group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), warned marchers that clinics may need direct action defense again. She emphasized that the successful defense of Roe in the 1990s was won in the streets, with pro-choice activists — not police — physically removing Operation Rescue from the clinic doors. 

Over 200 of the participants in Saturday’s event scanned a QR code and filled out an online form to stay connected for future actions to defend reproductive rights. If you are interested in joining the effort in Southeast Michigan, send a request to join the “Reproductive Rights Group” on Facebook, which will be the online organizing space for follow-up actions.

Join us. If we are to defend abortion rights, it will be by marching arm and arm in the streets, backed up by the power of the unions and the oppressed. 

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