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One woman held up a sign representing Medical Students for Choice. It said, "Get your own uterus, then tell it what to do."

A man carried one that said, "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."

"More access, more providers, fewer politicians," declared an ACLU poster.

The 200-plus people rallying inside Iowa's State Capitol last week found creative and colorful ways to express their outrage over politicians' increasingly successful efforts to control women's bodies. Theirs was one of more than 450 #StoptheBan rallies across America.

Already this year, legislators in different states have passed 16 curbs on abortion, said Erin Davison-Rippey, state executive director of Planned Parenthood of Iowa. Alabama's new law bans all abortions except when a woman's health is at serious risk. Under it, performing an abortion is a felony punishable by life or up to 99 years.

Under a bill passed in Missouri and awaiting the governor's signature, doctors who perform abortions could be sentenced to prison for anywhere between five and 15 years. They could lose their licenses for not performing a fetal heartbeat test. Davison-Rippey said one in three - 25 million - women of reproductive age now lives in a state where abortion could be outlawed if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Those laws are in direct defiance of the wishes of 73% of Americans, Davison-Rippey said. Iowa's courts saved Iowans from the fetal heartbeat abortion ban, then the toughest abortion law in the country last year. But Republican lawmakers are itching for court fights that go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, now with a conservative majority, so they can challenge Roe v. Wade.

"Politicians have stopped pretending these restrictions are about making abortions safer," observed Mark Stringer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

But there were heartening signs that activists are readying to fight back in a more comprehensive way than in the past by building bridges and connecting the dots. Stressing that their fates and issues are intertwined, a diverse group of speakers - African-American, Native American, white; male, female, transgender, millennial and Baby Boomer – hammered on the common threats to everyone's sovereignty and right to self-determination.

Olivia Samples, an African-American doula, called the control of women's fertility an issue of white supremacy and patriarchy, and talked of how slaves were forcibly bred following an 1808 ban on importing slaves. Meanwhile black mothers today (including in Alabama) are three to four times as likely to die in childbirth as white women, she said.

Talking about "ownership and control of marginalized bodies," Max Mowitz, who is transgender, mentioned restrictive state bills pertaining to bathroom use and Iowa's recent ban on Medicaid coverage for sex-change surgery. Trisha Etringer of Indigenous Iowa, wearing a T-shirt that said, "No one is illegal on stolen ground," suggested anyone truly pro-life would be concerned about immigrant children dying in Homeland Security custody or other children dying from firearm access.

"As an indigenous woman, I believe I inherently have sovereignty over my body," she said, calling anti-abortion laws a form of colonization. She predicted that with penalties against pregnant women who hurt their fetuses, low-income women and those of color would disproportionately be deemed criminals.

And Christine Nobiss of Seeding Sovereignty, one of the rally's sponsors, said the legacy of colonization had contributed to indigenous women facing the highest rape rates in the country, along with teenage pregnancies, poverty, discrimination and violence. Yet no reservation can provide abortion services because of the federal Hyde Amendment, which restricts abortion coverage for federally funded health-care recipients.

Against this backdrop, instead of getting more diverse, Nobiss said the Republican Party "became more white and more male than ever. " Her research found congressional Republicans are 95% white, 99% Christian and 90% male, and that 91% "openly support anti-abortion laws in different capacities."

"It's beyond obvious that there is a segment of this country's population that has no intention of separating church and state," Nobiss said. "Have you ever heard of a pro-lifer that does not have any sort of religious affiliation? ... As an indigenous person, I take infiltration of Christianity into legislation very seriously, as it is the perpetuation of the doctrine of discovery, manifest destiny, the white man's burden ... "

The New York Times called the previous week "the most momentous" in years for the anti-abortion movement. With eight states having passed greater restrictions, the anti-abortion movement is closer than in the 46 years since Roe v. Wade to dismantling it. It cites sustained anti-abortion activism supported by conservative churches which over the years have gone from preaching against personal morality issues like "fornication," to preaching against abortion and same-sex marriage. The shift is welcomed by Republican politicians who have ridden those wedge issues to control over state legislatures and congressional seats, and then rewritten state laws curbing abortion access.

Legal or not, women will continue to have abortions when having and raising children isn't feasible. One-quarter of women in America has an abortion in her lifetime, Davison-Rippey said. This unholy war on women's health and choices has gone on too long and gone too far, and the only thing that can stop it is enough people joining together, linking stories and issuing a resounding NO to anyone else trying to control our bodies.

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Rekha Basu is a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Readers may send her email at rbasu@dmreg.com.

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