CHEYENNE – Dogs, an ever-ringing cowbell and even at least one younger participant helped to lighten the atmosphere at an otherwise serious gathering Saturday afternoon in downtown, held to protest a possible U.S. Supreme Court decision that could allow for greatly restricting abortions.

The event was peaceful and appeared to be loosely organized; there were no speeches or other formal remarks, at least in the first hour or so. Participants faced Lincolnway from the sidewalk in front of the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. Many held signs, and the crowd cheered whenever passing vehicles honked in an apparent show of approval for the crowd's aims. Cheers also were heard whenever passersby audibly backed the goal of supporting women's rights to get an abortion.

The name of the event was "Bans Off Our Bodies," according to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Various national and local groups that support abortion rights did not immediately comment about any involvement they might have had.

The U.S. Supreme Court seemingly could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade pro-abortion decision, based on a recently leaked draft opinion. Although the opinion is not final, and the court may not issue any final ruling until next month (or possibly even later), groups that support a woman's right to chose to get an abortion medical procedure or to take a pill that induces an abortion have opposed the draft decision.

"The Supreme Court is making their official decision on abortion rights in June. Once that happens, 26 states could move quickly to ban abortion, meaning millions of people could live without local access to abortion care," said the web page for this protest. "We have to act NOW, all across the country. Together, we will send a strong message that we're not backing down. Supporting abortion access must be protected and defended."

Some attendees at this afternoon's gathering, who spoke with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, said they came from all across the state.

The biggest numbers came from Cheyenne and from Laramie. They noted that there also were other, similar protests being held in additional Wyoming cities. Cheyenne also recently had another abortion protest, an event that also was not widely publicized in advance, at least not to the news media.

The crowd here today initially numbered a few dozen, at around the 12:30 p.m. posted start time. As time passed, more people joined in, with several dozens in attendance before too long. Eventually, people were spread out along the street on much of a block of Lincolnway, and there were many others standing behind them. 

Little police presence

There did not appear to be any counter-protesters, at least at the main protest itself. And a big Wyoming pro-life group confirmed to the WTE that it is not involved in any such counter-demonstrations.

However, there were some other counter-protesters in the vicinity.

The only police presence, at least early on, appeared to have been a single patrol car. It did not linger for long. (The Cheyenne Police Department did not immediately provide any information.)

The gathering included plenty of men, some of whom attended with their romantic partners and/or spouses.

Grant Rogers of Cheyenne held a sign that attracted some attention.

On one side, the placard said at the top: "Don't tread on me." That was followed by a demand to protect "our wives," "our sisters" and also "legal abortion." The flip side of his sign had pictures of Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. Over their images, the sign said, in all capitalized letters: "Maybe we don't let sexual predictors decide what women can do with their bodies."

One of the youngest participants in the abortion rights gathering was Isla Durst, age 9, who attended with her mother. 

"My mom explained how it worked," Isla said of the potential Supreme Court decision. "I wanted to be here ... and (I) agree with her." Her mom, Tayler Durst, was standing next to Isla.

Canines worked the crowd, to the delight of some participants. One dog in attendance was an approximately year-old Australian Shepherd, and another was a two-year-old Labradoodle. Among those getting in some pets of the friendly animals was Mary Guthrie of Cheyenne.

'Trigger law'

The head of a Wyoming group that does not support abortion noted that, even with the unauthorized leak from the high court, the decision is neither guaranteed, nor final.

"Let’s not take it as gospel yet," said Marti Halverson, the president of Right to Life of Wyoming. "We deplore the leak, and we think Justice Roberts is correct in ordering an investigation, and we hope someone is held accountable for this leak." Chief Justice John Roberts had ordered an investigation, and the court's marshal was going to investigate.

Nonetheless, "if this is the final decision, (her group) is thrilled," Halverson said by phone from Etna. "The subject of abortion regulation will be sent down to the states."

In Wyoming, the issuance of the Supreme Court decision could lead to this state's so-called trigger law to take effect. The law, passed by state legislators earlier this year, could allow for many restrictions on abortion in the state, should certain legal conditions be met such as those that would be certified by the state's attorney general.

Right to Life of Wyoming "would be happy, and we are confident that Gov. Gordon is going to abide by the letter and the spirit of House Bill 92," should the top U.S. court issue its decision as is expected, Halverson said. Gov. Mark Gordon had signed HB 92 into law; its formal name is "Abortion prohibition-Supreme Court decision.”

As for its own formal events, Halverson noted that her group holds a weekly prayer vigil in Casper outside a planned abortion clinic there. She said the gathering, which is open to the public, is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Jonathan Make is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s assistant managing editor and editor of the Wyoming Business Report. He can be reached at jmake@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3129. Follow him on Twitter @makejdm.

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