Oct. 8, declared by the Women’s March movement as a national day of action in support of women’s reproductive rights, saw about 80 people gather at Glenwood Springs’ Sayre Park for what was billed as a Women’s Wave rally.
Supporters stood along Grand Avenue, holding signs, some handmade, and waved to drivers winding through the busy Saturday traffic, some who lent their support by honking horns or flashing a thumbs-up. The boulevard was lined with ‘Roe-vember’ and local Democratic candidate yard signs.
The Oct. 8 date — one month before the midterm elections — was chosen to host rallies in 50 states and Washington, D.C. In Colorado, rallies were also held in Grand Junction and Denver.
“This is basically a rally for women’s rights and our local Democratic candidates, as well,” explained Trinity Stebleton, rally co-organizer and Latino outreach director for the Garfield County Democrats.
Special guest speaker, Susan Daggett, wife of Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, sent a message to “encourage people to show up and vote for freedom for women.”
Daggett stressed the importance of Democrats voting “down the ballot” because “there’s never been a more important election than this one.”
Stebleton and rally co-organizers Katrina McAlpine and Tammy Reynolds coordinated two previous events at the Sayre Park location. In June, in support of gun safety legislation, and in mid-July in support of women’s reproductive rights — shortly after the June 24 overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court’s 6-3 decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case effectively overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected abortion rights for nearly 50 years. The Dobbs decision reversed and remanded Roe v. Wade, stating the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion and returned the authority to the individual states to regulate abortion.
One midterm election concern looming large for Colorado Democrats is the prospect of Republicans regaining control of the governor’s office and the state legislature. Arguing, if that happened, Colorado could have the same fate as other states whose Republican-led state legislatures have, post-Roe, enacted laws to ban abortion.
The Dobbs decision, all three organizers say, sets the stage for the chipping away of other hard-won rights, including same-sex and interracial marriage, LGBTQIA+ adoption and bans on contraceptives. “This is just opening the door,” Reynolds shared.
Rifle resident David Mullennex held a sign with a pro-life message on the corner of Grand and Hyland Park Drive, across from Sayre Park. He was with his two young children, one who held a handmade sign, painted by Mullennex’s wife displaying a portrait of a mother holding a small child, with text reading “Please don’t kill me — sing me lullabies.”
Mullennex shared, “The most vulnerable members of our society — which are the unborn — require a voice. I’m a Christian, and I believe that life begins very early on, and I don’t think that abortion is the answer to anything.”
Ryan Gordon is the Democratic candidate for the Garfield County commissioner seat, currently held by Republican Tom Jankovsky, who has served as Commissioner since January 2011. Gordon has two daughters, ages six and eight, “and it’s vital that they have the right to choose as they grow up, not just for [physical] health, but for mental health. We know that there are negative ramifications to not having the ability to have a choice; that it can have negative mental health consequences.”
In 2015, the current Garfield County commissioners voted to cut county funding to Planned Parenthood, but after public outcry over that decision, the funds were reinstated. Gordon explained, “It’s important that we maintain that pressure to maintain those resources for everybody in the county.”
Aron Diaz, running for Garfield County Treasurer, is challenging incumbent Carrie Couey, the former county Republican party chair, who was appointed to the seat two years ago after former Treasurer Karla Bagley resigned. Diaz said, “I’m running against the partisan cronyism that has, I think, been part of the treasurer’s office now.”
Diaz emphasized the importance of voting for every office on the ballot. He said, “People need to understand that every race on every ballot matters. Republicans have, for a long time, understood that, and they’ve voted that way. And they’ve trained their voters to make sure they complete the whole ballot.”
Elizabeth Velasco, the Democratic candidate for Colorado House District 57, said, “At the state level, we are protected with access to abortion, but in a rural community, we are still dealing with limited providers and with limited access, without having to drive very far distances to get access to reproductive rights. I would be working on that at the legislature and, of course, always bringing solutions that work for us in the mountains.”
In January, Glenwood Springs native Cole Buerger ended his bid for the Democratic nomination to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert. Colorado’s eventual Third Congressional District Democratic nominee would be Adam Frisch, who was campaigning elsewhere in the district on Saturday.
But Buerger was there as a representative for Frisch, explaining, “We’ve got people out representing him and his campaign in the belief that there’s no role for the government to be restricting rights. It’s imperative that we codify women’s reproductive protections into federal law.”
Sol Sandoval, a Pueblo resident who lost the Democratic bid to Frisch in the June primary, was pulling double duty – representing Frisch and Emerge Colorado, whose goal is to, according to their website: “increase the number of diverse Democratic women in office to create an inclusive democracy.”
As Emerge’s rural program manager, Sandoval emphasized the importance of representing rural Colorado voices. “We need diverse voices in places, like school boards, city councils, everywhere,” she said.
Stebleton said the rally’s message includes a commitment to personal choice: “Even if you have a different mindset when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, you still can respect a woman’s autonomy to make her own health decisions, which go beyond abortion.”