Rolande Baker, a 71-year-old great-grandmother from Arizona, was one of three women who were arrested for protesting for abortion rights outside the Supreme Court on November 2 during a hearing for an unrelated case that was open to the public. Baker and the other two women, Nikki Enfield and Emily Paterson, are now talking about the inhumane treatment they say they faced during their 30-hour stay in a DC jail, where they say their cells were littered with blood and feces , temperatures persisted around 90 degrees, and they were denied water and legal representation. Baker, who has a motor disability, told Jezebel that her cane was taken away from her and she was chained before her arraignment.
Baker, a long-time civil disobedience practitioner, said she was forced to travel from Arizona to DC to protest in court due to her frustration with the lack of media coverage of abortion rights before the midterm elections. “It was all about ‘inflation’ which made me so angry knowing that this is just a price hike when people needed to realize how important this election was for abortion,” Baker said.
The problem was also personal to Baker. At 19, she had a pre-Roe vs. Wade the abortion that forced her to travel from Indiana to New York, where abortion was legal, with the help of her boyfriend. “I was lucky, I had three things going for me: I had a boyfriend, who had enough money, who supported me and drove me, and I was a white woman,” she told me. she said in a telephone interview. “There were so many more barriers for women of color.” Baker says the doctor who performed the abortion told him he had seen aborted patients from all over the country and needed help connecting out-of-state patients with transportation. . By offering to help lead them, she found her calling as an abortion rights organizer.
After deer was decided in 1973, Baker said he regretted having become an accomplice: “I sat on my laurels a little, I got married, I had children.” The fall of deer in June, almost 50 years later, pushed her back into the fray.
Prior to Nov. 2, Baker had never met Enfield or Paterson, but they had connected through activist circles and waited hours in line to enter the Supreme Court that day. Baker had had difficulty entering the building due to his disability. Once inside, she said, they were warned by Supreme Court police that if they protest, “you will be placed in Cell Block C in Washington, D.C., and you don’t want go”. The magnitude of what they were doing only struck Baker when she saw the judges come in and take their seats. Baker, a retired teacher, once took her students on field trips to DC to see the courthouse from the outside and said she had “always revered the institution.” Undeterred, Baker spoke out anyway, unsettling a lawyer presenting arguments for a banking case. She only said 10 words: “Our rights will not be broken. Women vote for choice.
Shortly after, Baker, Enfield and Paterson, who also spoke, were arrested and placed in dark, cramped vehicles where they were restrained by very restrictive bars and “couldn’t move at all”, said Baker, adding that the prison itself was “the most inhumane place I’ve ever been in, and I’ve done civil disobedience before, I’ve been in cells.” In addition to blood and feces, extreme heat, lack of water, and confiscation of his cane, the four-by-six-foot cells had only a metal bed frame with no mattress and a toilet. Baker said she spent most of their 30-hour stay sitting on top of the toilet because there was nowhere else to sit comfortably. “We were begging for water, contacting lawyers, and ignoring them like animals,” she said.
The three women all suffered heavy bruising between their arrest and transport to their time in jail, Baker said. After their arraignment, they were released without bond and were not convicted of any crime. A lawyer who spoke with the Guardian pointed out that the conditions the women allegedly faced violate their rights to humane treatment and consideration for conditions such as Baker’s disability. Last year, a federal judge ruled that the same DC prison where the women were being held violated the rights of a January 6 protester who was also arrested and detained there.
Baker said she hopes her experience will be understood as part of a larger issue of treating people who are incarcerated, and even people who have not yet been charged or convicted of any crime. Additionally, she wants her experience to underscore how “absolutely” reproductive justice is a criminal justice issue. In the days following the fall of deer, peaceful abortion rights protesters across the country have faced violence, tear gas (an abortifacient) and arrest by law enforcement – all while clinic volunteers Abortion groups have often denounced the kindness of police officers to often violent anti-abortion protesters. In a state like Texas, providing abortion care can result in a life sentence; even in a state like California, just earlier this year, a woman was released after serving four years of an 11-year sentence for losing a pregnancy to alleged substance use.
“I have a shirt that says ‘I’m going to help and abet abortion,’ because I will. We’re not going to stop no matter what,” Baker said. prevent having or helping others to have abortions.” Within days of her incarceration in DC, she was back in Arizona, driving people to their polls on Election Day.
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