Twilight Women’s March
“No one should ever be denied timely access to safe, quality reproductive health care.”
Wake County Soil and Water Supervisor Jenna Wadsworth shared that message with more than 250 attendees at Craven County’s Twilight Women’s March on October 2. Co-sponsored by the Craven County Democratic Party (CCDP), Democratic Women of Craven County (DWCC), and Creating and Sustaining Equity (CASE), the event began at the Craven County Courthouse and culminated in a rally at Union Point.
New Bern Alderwoman Barbara Best opened the event at the courthouse in downtown New Bern, welcoming the diverse, enthusiastic crowd that had gathered to protest the eroding of women’s rights.
Register of Deeds Sherri Richard spoke about the history of women’s rights in North Carolina, reminding the group about legal victories – such as same-sex marriage and financial autonomy – while noting that these rights can too-easily be taken away by the courts if we do not stay vigilant. Long-time Civil Rights activists Barbara Lee and Ethel Sampson also inspired the group to continue fighting to make a difference, encouraging walkers as they departed from the
courthouse toward the park.
After the group wended its way to Union Point along Broad Street, Alderwoman Jameesha Harris welcomed the group, stating that “pro-choice” means that each woman has the right make her own choices about reproductive health. Harris shared recommendations to improve the quality of life through increasing wages and access to healthcare for all, including public school children. Those sentiments were echoed by elected Craven County and City of New Bern officials, community leaders, those seeking to serve in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and leaders of the three organizing groups.
U.S. House of Representatives Candidate Barbara Gaskins could not attend the rally but sent a video message in support of the march. She stated that restrictive health care laws have a devastating effect on poor women who are often humiliated and judged by providers. “We must do better. A woman’s right to choose and access safe abortions must be assured and preserved across the nation and here in North Carolina.”
“I wish that in the year 2021, we didn’t still have to be marching for our basic human rights,” said N.C. Sen. Erica Smith, who is seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate. “Healthcare is a human right, and abortion is healthcare.”
“What does a man know about female reproductive health?” asked Rett Newton, U.S. Senate candidate and current mayor of Beaufort. “Nothing!” came the audience’s reply to which Newton agreed and encouraged the courts to “listen to women.”
Both Newton and past DWCC President Barbara Harrison said they were strong advocates for Planned Parenthood, with Harrison relating a story about when she had volunteered in Nashville, TN, “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” Planned Parenthood, she said, meant that she could plan when, where, and how to begin her family.
CCDP President Linda Moore also shared a personal story and, like Harris, said that her decision might not be others’ decisions. The crowd loudly agreed, answering with “Whose business? My business!” – one of several chants that echoed throughout the 90-minute event.
Also in attendance was H. J. MacDonald Middle School student Cadence Edwards, 11, who was one of this summer’s winners of the DWCC-sponsored Juneteenth essay contest. She read her speech, ending, “We hear our parents and grandparents talk about their experience with racism and ways that they were not treated fairly, and it is sad that we still must deal with some of those things.” “We should continue celebrating this holiday,” she added, “but we should also do everything we can to see change, so that when I am older, it can be something I can look back on and say, ‘I remember when.’ If we keep fighting, we can do it.”
Afterwards, Bee Mayo appeared in a suffragette outfit to remind women of the sacrifices their foremothers made. She reminded attendees that “we must stand together” to demand that the Equal Rights Amendment become part of the U. S. Constitution.
CASE’s JoAnna Wishon concluded the march with “our choices are none of your business.” She said that most people know someone who has had an abortion and that those women need the opportunity to make their choices without judgment and with compassion, privacy, and access. “The day we’ve been preparing for is here, and the time is now,” Wishon said. “I don’t need to tell you how dangerous the ban on safe, legal abortions in Texas is right now.” She encouraged
people to give to Planned Parenthood and Carolina Abortion Fund.
“We stand with all women,” said CASE Chair Caitlin Trombley. “We stand with disabled women, women of color, immigrant women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, women of other religious and/or secular world views, working class and impoverished women, neurodivergent women, and all women who don’t fit your stereotype inside your head when you think about women. It’s all of us, or none of us.” Trombley also talked about violence against and harassment of women in the workplace and asked local businesses to take a pledge to make sure their workplace is safe from sexual
harassment and/or violence and to take claims of those incidents seriously. CASE will help businesses review their policies. This is an unfair dynamic in which one person is holding a position of power and authority and the other is not.”
“For all the survivors out there who are hurting, know that you are loved,” Wadsworth echoed. “Know that you are worthy. “It is up to the women and the non-binary folks to save this country. It is up to us to vote like our lives and our futures depend upon it.” Wadsworth, who garnered almost 5 million votes when she sought the N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture role concluded,” we’re bending the arc of justice and that takes all of us working
“Rev. King said, ‘change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability’,” said Craven MLK Outreach Ministry Chair Marshall Williams, “but comes through continuous struggle. My sisters, constant marching, constant advocating, constant educating our community and constant
revealing the truth and the knowledge will bring about power and change.” Smith stressed, “We are going to have to rise up over and over and over again until they cannot deny our demands. We’re going to rise up until they end the filibuster. We’re going to rise up until we codify Roe v. Wade.”
The name “Twilight March” was chosen to emphasize the metaphoric “sunsetting” of women’s bodily autonomy under the law. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in December testing a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks, a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The New Bern event was one of more than 600 similar gatherings and rallies taking place nationwide October 2.