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Reactions from Kalamazoo to SCOTUS overturning abortion rights

Woman at an abortion-rights rally in Bronson Park holding a pink sign that says "They don't care if you live, they don't care if you die, it's only ever been about control. Next to her is a person holding a sign that says "Keep your laws off our bodies."
Leona Larson
People hold signs at the "Reproductive Freedom For All Gathering" in Bronson Park after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a woman's right to an abortion on June 24.

In Bronson Park and across Western Michigan University's campus, people shared their responses to the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overruled Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

The decision came down Friday morning.

At lunchtime in Bronson Park, people were outside enjoying Lunchtime Live! The free, summer concert series that happens every Friday through September 2.

Concertgoers expressed everything from shock, dismay, anger, and disappointment in the ruling that allows states to ban abortion.

“I think that circumstances happen in women's lives where they have no choice. And it's best to make it legal rather than having people go to these back alleys to have abortions like they did years ago,” said Bettye Walker.

“I think it's ridiculous. It's not my place or any of the men's place to make that decision,” said Nick Kusa. “So, I think it's ridiculous that Roe v. Wade didn't continue.”

“I hate to infringe upon somebody else's beliefs,” said Jessica Thomas, “But I don't know. I don't understand how you can be okay with taking away somebody's rights to their own body, and their health and everything.” 

Abortion-rights rally
Leona Larson
Hundreds of abortion-rights supporters attend a rally in Bronson Park on June 24 to protest the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and legalized it nationwide.

On the campus of Western Michigan University, the reaction from students was similar.

“It seems apocalyptic to be true, but sadly it is. I can only hope that now, Governor Whitmer can possibly have the power to at least help out Michigan,” said sophomore Tristan Beck Torres.

“If I had to boil it down to one word, dehumanizing is what I would call it,” said senior, McKenzie Stommen. “You know as a woman, The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, really makes me feel like I, and other women and people with uteruses, are second class citizens. And that that's how the Supreme Court and lawmakers in this country view us.”

“I’m heartbroken,” said Lilia Oldenburg, 20. “It feels like we're moving backwards in time. And this is, I feel like this is only the beginning for what else could be rolled back. Like as an out and proud gay person, I worry for what else can come from this. And just like focusing on what happened today, this is going to disproportionately affect minorities across the country and there is not going to be any option for them and so many people are going to die from this.”

“I can’t think this will end well,” said senior Noah Morriss. “It seems like a little bit of an invasion of your privacy to make these decisions for you. It just seems like they’re stepping on your personal territory with forcing these decisions.”

“I think the right to a safe, legal abortion should be a federal right, and I'm sad and afraid for people who live in states where that's going to be even more challenging now,” said Haley Summerfield, 23, whose working on a master’s degree.

Abortion-rights posters
Leona Larson
Posters lie on the ground during an abortion-rights rally in Bronson Park on June 24. The rally protesting the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and five decades of precedence recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Alba Fernandez, who came back from her home country of Spain for graduation, was in her graduation robes on campus Friday. Fernandez just earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Spanish.

“For us international students, coming to the United States to study is a great opportunity because this country has so much to offer in terms of education,” said Fernandez. “It is sad to see how they're going backwards in terms of rights for the people of this country.” 

Spain, a predominately Catholic country, legalized abortion in 1985.  When Roe v. Wade was decided a dozen years earlier, Fernandez said, Spain was a very different country. What's happening in the U.S. now, reminds her of Spain's past.

“In 1973, in Spain, we were in a dictatorship, and we didn’t have civil rights and women were struggling a lot. Spain is a country that has developed very fast. I can’t imagine how the United States of America, it is for many countries in the world a reference of democracy, and now taking all these steps back in the past.”

“I would be devastated to see my country doing what the United States is doing,” said Fernandez. “And I’m sorry for women in this country. I don’t know when this is going to end, but it is worrying, all the rights, you are losing them.”  

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special project's producer and later, as an investigative producer. Today, she splits her time as a general assignment reporter at WMUK and a part-time journalism instructor for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.