ST. LOUIS ― One day before the state’s last abortion clinic was set to close, effectively ending legal abortion in Missouri, Serina Mikunda, 31, stood on the side of the road and urged cars to honk for reproductive rights.
Next to her, hundreds of people marched and chanted, many vocally furious about the state’s decision not to renew the license for the Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis ― the sole abortion clinic left in the state ― as well as new legislation that bans abortion at eight weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.
“I’m here for everyone who has a uterus, but really I’m here for my grandmother,” Mikunda said.
When her grandmother was 28, she had an illegal abortion at home in Missouri, Mikunda said. Her grandmother got sepsis, lost consciousness and spent five days in the hospital. But when she came to, Mikunda recalled, doctors told her they shouldn’t have wasted their time on her: She was a murderer.
“She almost died,” Mikunda said. “Growing up, she always told me that story. It made me realize what is uncomfortable for some people to talk about is life-altering for others to not talk about. It’s not about feelings, it is about the lives that are affected.”
Mikunda said she’d been to five protests this week. “Honestly, I’ve seen this coming,” she said of the clinic’s potential closure. “But I’m glad to see so many people standing up now.”
At Thursday’s rally, Kawanna Shannon, director of surgical services at the threatened Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis, castigated Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
“Our patients aren’t stupid!” she said, speaking to the crowd gathered in the shadow of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch. “They know what decisions they want to make for their lives.”
Shannon promised to continue fighting for Missourians’ right to access legal abortions.
“Gov. Parson ― when politicians lie, people die,” she said. “Shame on you.”
Musician and activist Amanda Palmer, who has been outspoken about the two abortions she had with her husband, author Neil Gaiman, also spoke at the rally.
“I’m so proud of your city,” Palmer said, urging people to keep protesting and using their voice to fight injustice.
“If you can, you have to,” she said. “Now is the time. We are fucking here, now.”
Planned Parenthood, which helped to organize the rally, declared a state of emergency on Thursday in response to the draconian abortion bills being passed in states across the nation. So far in 2019, six states, including Missouri, have passed legislation severely curtailing or outright banning the procedure. None are currently in effect; all will likely be challenged in court.
“Like any other state of emergency, we need all hands on deck,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, said in an interview with HuffPost. “I encourage anyone who cares about women’s health and access to abortion care in America to take action, because this is a failure of our system.”