- Madeline Ryan Smith
Rally For Roe - Madeline Ryan Smith's Speech
Good afternoon everyone and thank you all so much for being here in support of reproductive freedoms. I’m not one for giving pre-written speeches but I thought today deserved thought out words and carefully written phrases.
For context, I am a straight, white, disabled woman from the south who was also an adopted child. I am here today to fight my fight for abortion just like you.
Let us be clear today: we will not go back. When we say the words “we won’t go back” we must say them with meaning. To do this, we must understand where we have been.
While writing this speech, we were in the midst of planning this event. I was doing the simple task of finding some stock photos of rallies like this to use on our social media. Simple enough right? So I’m scrolling. Through photos of girls who look like me and look like you, holding signs and yelling. Some photos are modern, some date back to the beginning of the women's suffrage movement. I'm looking through these photos for about 5 minutes, and then I realize I am actually tearing up. Emotional because I was reminded of every woman in my family who has fought for women's rights. All of our mothers and grandmothers who have literally died fighting for our rights here and abroad.
My great grandmother was fighting this fight when she left Ireland as a young woman, a country where she could have been sold as a slave Laborer to the Magdalene laundries by her family for becoming pregnant before marriage. The Magdalene laundries were in operation until 1996. The promise of religious freedom and autonomy in America for women was enough for thousands of immigrants to come here. Their daughters and granddaughters are here with us today.
Faye Wattleton, the first Black woman to serve as president of Planned Parenthood, was fighting this fight when she stood on the steps of the Supreme Court in the summer of 1989 to condemn its decision on the abortion rights case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. SCOTUS had ruled that states had the right to limit abortion access.
Norma McCorvey was fighting this fight when she became the plaintiff we know as Jane Roe.
These people and groups fought for us and our rights that we have today. It is now our turn to step up and take their place. Take their place to ensure that our daughters have the same rights we had. That the world is a safer, healthier place to live.
We must recognize that this is an issue that affects all of us. More so than others. Either because of privilege or prejudice.
But never the less, We must stand together with our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our friends. These individuals are fighting this fight today. They fight for the ability to make their own choices. To be able to have control over their own bodies.
To be able to decide for themselves if and when they want children.
Women across the country that are questioned or worse by their doctors when experiencing a miscarriage. Women who find themselves pregnant, and know that they would have to drop out of school, quit their job, or more importantly; are currently in a domestically violent environment. Women who have certain disabilities fight this fight when they know carrying a child to term would kill them. While many healthcare workers choose to weaponise abortion against the disabled community, it’s not the abortions that harm our community. It’s the ableist idea that disabled people don’t belong in this world that kills us.
Men and women in the LGBTQ community who are often targets of sexual assault fight this fight when they just express who they are. The only message we have given them in this world so far is express yourself and receive violence, or conform and stay safe.
Our little sisters who are still in high school fight this fight unknowingly; every time we opt them out of sex education or teach them that sex is wrong. What’s different with our youngest generation is that we are actively setting them up for wide scale failure. Access to not only healthcare, but comprehensive sex education is a must.
I tell these stories to make a point - that this issue affects all of us. We as a group owe it to each other to stand up for each other, to give each other space to speak, and to lift each other’s voices so they can be heard. We must listen, we must learn, and we must include women of Color and the LGBTQ Community at all tables and where all decisions are being made.
We must be clear with our words.
We will not go back to the days we were all kept behind closed doors in moments we needed each other the most. We will not go back to a time where religion divided our gender.
We will not go back to a time where a woman was more likely to die than get the help she needed during pregnancy. Intentional or not.
We will not go back to a time where we teach our daughters to suppress their sexuality.
We will not go back to teaching our daughters to aspire to marriage.
We will not go back to criminalized abortion.
And I sure as hell refuse to tell any daughter of mine that she has no options if she accidentally becomes pregnant. I refuse to live in a world where my daughters know we had the chance to protect their rights and chose not to.
So what can we do?
We recognize that allowing states to dictate freedoms to women will be a guarantee that your healthcare depends on your zip code. That abortion will still be legal - only to those with privilege.
We get angry. We raise our voices. We don’t stay quiet, well mannered southern belles. We go and grab them by the ballot. We vote pro choice women into office. We make it clear that we will not go back.
Look around you.
Look to your left and right. Look at the person standing next to you.
This is their fight and your fight. Our only option now is to stand together in support of what we know to be the truth. That women need and deserve access to abortion.
Know that the people here and around you support autonomy and freedom, and know that we deserve a choice. Take up the fight together - and together we will overcome.
Thank you all for being here today, and for having the strength and the courage to stand up.