Lindsey Ellefson is not your average 22-year-old New Yorker. She moved to the city from North Dakota when she was 18, working various part time jobs as well as freelancing as a journalist.
But on Tuesday she dropped all of her commitments to go to Washington, D.C., and take part in a formal protest.
“I made sure that everybody knew in advance that I was going to be gone,” Ellefson said, “and I rode down [to D.C.] on the NARAL Pro-Choice New York bus.”
NARAL Pro-Choice New York took part in a protest Tuesday morning outside the Supreme Court, where the justices were hearing oral arguments from Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts supply store chain. Hobby Lobby is fighting a stipulation in the Affordable Care Act mandating that companies must provide health insurance that covers birth control to women.
Hobby Lobby objects to types of birth control that can cause abortions, which the company claims violate its religious beliefs.
“NARAL Pro-Choice New York is an organization dedicated to making sure that abortion rights are not taken away from women,” Ellefson said, “and they felt like they needed to stage the protest to make sure that women that work at Hobby Lobby or anywhere else that could be affected ... are backed up and know that they have support, and that there are people out there who are not going to let their fundamental rights to health coverage be taken away.”
NARAL Pro-Choice New York wasn’t the only organization demonstrating that day. “There were about 40 groups on our side, and there were at least a few hundred people protesting,” she said.
It was cold and snowy in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, but that did not discourage the demonstrators.
“Planned Parenthood distributed beanie caps,” Ellefson recalled. “We jumped up and down when we were chanting to make sure we kept our blood flowing.”
Of course there are two sides to this issue, so there were demonstrators present in favor of Hobby Lobby’s case.
“We definitely outnumbered the other side, but they were pretty passionate,” Ellefson said. "At one point they crept into our area and held signs behind us with terrible pictures of mangled fetuses.”
Not to be discouraged, Ellefson's group took action. “None of us were tall enough to hold our signs over their signs, so we got hoisted up [onto people’s shoulders] to wrap a banner around their signs. That was definitely the most meaningful part of my day.”
One might think that in the age of social media, people are too lazy to actually attend a protest, but Ellefson believes just the opposite.
“[Protests] have been rejuvenated because of social media," Ellefson said. "It isn’t just something that’s going to be covered on the evening news or in the next day’s paper. It's something that people are going to see updated live on their phones, computers and tablets. We all were there under the hashtag #NotMyBossBusiness so the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL New York, The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, etc. came together under this hashtag to promote what we were doing.”
When asked what advice she’d give aspiring protesters, Ellefson said, “I think that it is important, if you have a belief, that other people are aware. The people that you associate with will understand that you believe in something, and it might inspire people.”