Q&A with Justice Gatson, organizer of Saturday’s Kansas City Abortion Rally

By Emily Park

Calling all midwestern intersectional feminists!

A rally for abortion justice is taking place this weekend in KC. After the news of what’s happened in Texas, KC organizations came together to plan something to show fierce opposition to the newest attack on our reproductive rights. After all, Missouri is no stranger to attacks on reproductive justice.

This rally is COVID-safe and socially distanced. Come and hear the lineup of incredible speakers who will address the Texas ban and what it means for Missourians. Also, visit local organizers and advocates—us.

Catcall is a proud co-host of this event, alongside Reale Justice Network, ACLU of Missouri, Operation Liberation, Barrier Babes, and more.

Where: Mill Creek Park

When: 10 a.m. Oct. 2

In advance of the march, we (virtually) sat down with Justice Gatson, the event’s lead organizer and founder of the Reale Justice Network for a Q&A about the event and reproductive justice efforts in Missouri and Kansas.

Photo by Kelcie McKenney

Q&A with Justice Gatson:

Catcall: You’ve organized women’s rallies in Kansas City before. Is there anything that makes this march stand out from rallies you’ve organized in the past?

Justice Gatson: Texas today, Missouri and Kansas tomorrow. We’re already seeing copycat bills — politicians have pledged to introduce them in Arkansas, and we expect even more to come.

Even under Roe v. Wade, abortion in Missouri is nearly impossible to access for people with low incomes, those who live in rural communities, and people of color who already navigate racist and discriminatory health care systems.

What makes this march stand out from others is the commitment from the National Women’s March to take direction, leadership and guidance from Black and Brown-led organizations and organizers and people who are directly impacted by reproductive justice issues.  

The endorsement of SisterSong, a highly regarded reproductive justice organization is a pretty big deal. Sister Songs’ stated mission is “to strengthen and amplify the collective voices of indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.”

So often, it has been the case that many of our white siblings in the fight will happily stand up for our rights but will sit in silence when it comes to our justice. In this critical moment, fighting for justice is the only way to achieve true reproductive justice. 

Because of SisterSongs leadership, one of the changes that took place was the renaming of the March to Rally. The word “rally” is inclusive and liberating language that is more inclusive than using the word “march”. It allows people who have physical limitations or disabilities to participate and feel included. When I started organizing our events a few years ago, that was definitely one of the things that I thought about and was intentional about it being a regular part of what we do in Kansas City. So, now all of the “marches” across the country are now rallies or a combination of both.  

There are over 600 scheduled events to unify birthing people and their supporters to demand Abortion Justice.  

“Texas today, Missouri and Kansas tomorrow. We’re already seeing copycat bills — politicians have pledged to introduce them in Arkansas, and we expect even more to come.”

– Justice Gatson, founder of Reale Justice Network

Catcall: On Oct. 2 there will be women’s rallies across the country in reaction to Texas enacting the strictest abortion ban in the country. How does what’s happening in Texas impact reproductive rights for the people of Kansas City?

Gatson: This is really important for us to pay attention to. We’ve already been alerted that a republican lawmaker intends to file a bill that is similar to the Texas bill. This is concerning because we’re already seeing the negative impacts of the Texas bill. Most of the clinics providing abortion care have stopped so as not to be in violation of the new law. Over the last several years, Missouri’s abortion care clinics have dwindled down to one. A ban like the Texas one, would likely shut down the last remaining clinic in our state. This would be detrimental to people who need care. Black and LGBTQIA  individuals will no doubt suffer the most from this type of law. Creating barriers to abortion does not prevent them. In fact, it increases the chances that someone may engage in unsafe practices out of fear and desperation. This is not the climate that we want Missourians living in. 

Catcall: What are the main points people need to know about what’s happening with reproductive rights in the United States?

Gaston: Reproductive rights are under attack in the United States. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Republican and some conservative lawmakers are intent to overturn Roe V Wade.  This fight is not new. For years, a war has been waged against the constitutional right to abortion care. Pro-life politicians across the country have been working to defund family planning providers and pass restrictive abortion bans that will erode our constitutional protections. Gag rules to take funding away from providers, forcing providers to hold admitting privileges at local hospitals and filing a slew of abortion bans throughout the country are a few of the big things advocates have been up against. Republican lawmakers continue to overreach in their bills, going against their own stance of less government and bureaucracy. I expect these attacks to ramp up over the next 12 months.

Catcall: What are the key concerns on reproductive access you see in Missouri and Kansas, and what is being done in response to those concerns?

Gatson: There are several concerns when it comes to abortion access in Missouri and Kansas. In 2019 the Missouri legislature passed a cascading bans bill that was signed by Gov. Mike Parson, making abortion illegal at just 8 weeks. This was stayed by a judge just a day before it was to go into effect. Recently, the court heard the case and we’re waiting for their decision. A Missouri lawmaker has already committed to filing legislation that is similar to Texas. This is detrimental news to advocates who are already fighting to keep the last remaining clinic open.

With nearly 600 restrictions introduced, 2021 is the worst year for state legislative attacks on abortion since Roe.

In Kansas, we’re up against an amendment that could remove the right to abortion from our constitution and leave us vulnerable to an abortion ban. 

Catcall: What can people who attend Saturday’s rally expect to experience and how does attending the march help the cause?

Gatson: People should expect to hear from a diverse range of reproductive justice organizers, who are directly in the fight against these oppressive bans as well as the full autonomy over our bodies without government interference. Supporters will get to hear what’s important in the fight and how they can support ongoing efforts in Missouri. We have an amazing line-up of speakers and performers: 

Special Musicals Performers Include:

  • Eboni Fondren: Artist and singer
  • Julie Othmer : Musician
  • Cia Cole: Artist and singer

Special Art Build By Quizee (he/him) Creative director for the Nafasi Center and a multimedia artist.

Accessibility: Celia Ruiz

Opening Ceremony Conducted by Iyami Nika Renee Sheshat and The MOKAN Reproductive Justice Coalition.

“We need to really be lending our support to Black and Brown organizations that really embrace the core principles of reproductive justice. This means supporting the right for a person to choose to parent or not. This means the right to parent in safe and sustainable communities.”

– Justice Gatson

Catcall: What kind of measures are you taking to ensure the rally is conducted safely amid COVID-19?

Gatson: Because we are still in a global pandemic, we are requiring that masks are worn and that participants adhere to the CDC recommendations of maintaining a 6-foot distance. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available at our health and safety table.  

Catcall: For those who can’t attend, what are a few things they can still do to support the KC Abortion Rights Rally?

Gatson: Please share our event. Please donate to help us pay for expenses related to the event and organizing efforts. Please watch and share the Livestream being broadcast from RealeJusticeNetwork. 

Catcall: What organizations are there in Kansas City that people can get involved with to support reproductive rights?

Gatson: I would definitely keep supporting the long-time groups that provide abortion care and support such as Planned Parenthood and the Kansas Abortion Fund.

However, at this stage, we’re pushing way beyond support for reproductive rights. We need JUSTICE!! We need to really be lending our support to Black and Brown organizations that really embrace the core principles of reproductive justice. This means supporting the right for a person to choose to parent or not. This means the right to parent in safe and sustainable communities. Some of those groups would include the following: 

  • BTAN
  • Freedom House Collective 
  • Operation Liberation 
  • Reale Justice Network 
  • Uzazi Village 

Catcall: Is there anything else people should know about before Saturday’s rally?

Gatson: Yes. Please bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Small groups can sit together. Please adhere to masking requirements. Seating is available for those with accessibility needs. Also, be on the lookout for a rain alternative in case the weather doesn’t work in our favor.

Emily Park (she/her) is a Kansas City-based journalist, passionate about giving a voice to those who don’t always have one. From news to features to business-to-business reporting, she’s done it all. In her free time, you can find Emily reading (probably fantasy smut), playing board games with her partner, or cuddling up with her dogs and cat.

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