When Becca Nicke and Red Perez fell after Roe v. When they got back to work, they felt the need to make their voices heard with the means at their disposal.
DAVENPORT, Iowa — Editor’s Note: The above video was broadcast on July 11th.
Becca Nicke and Red Perez were far from home in St. Louis when the news broke.
On June 24, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision overturned Roe v. calf, Conclusion that a pregnant person’s right to an abortion is not constitutionally protected; Returning the disputed legal issue to state legislatures.
Becca and Red are the owners of Abernathy’s, a small vintage clothing store in downtown Davenport specializing in alternative women’s fashion. The small business has garnered some attention with an artwork hanging in one of its storefront windows.
The installation features tons of hangers clumped together in a sprawling mass of metal wire and sharp edges, labeled with a sign that reads “vintage clothing, not vintage reproduction rights.”
The play conjures up the dark history of hanger abortions, a practice notorious in places where medical access to abortion is severely restricted or banned. Laws like these can push many women to take matters into their own hands, often resulting in serious injury, health complications, and even death.
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The combination of Becca and Red’s ailments and their line of work gave them an idea.
“We were both stumped as to what we could do because we wanted to do something to show our support for being pro-choice, and I think we kind of looked at each other and we were like ‘Hanger!'” said Becca .
“So working in a clothing store, where there’s literally always an abundance of hangers, felt natural with working in retail and with us as a retail store,” added Red. “It’s also kind of nice to be able to do something at a time when you kind of feel powerless, so it’s like, ‘So here’s something we can do. At least we can make art out of it.’”
The pair hope that people who may not know the full extent of the meaning and history behind the coat hanger iconography will learn something new from their art.
“Even as a young person, I always saw how protest art, whether it was stickers or old punk rock buttons, had a hanger with a slash through it. Just because I think it symbolizes how dangerous it is that women don’t have a choice,” Becca said. “And I’m not sure if everyone gets it, but maybe our installation will at least make people curious enough to explore wanting to educate about it, if people know what it symbolizes, it can definitely be a big hit to people.”
And it’s this more artistic expression of her point of view that gives her voice more power and meaning
“Sometimes you kind of drive into rural areas and you see, like, political billboards and stuff, and I think I’ve always known that a billboard isn’t going to change anybody’s mind, and I don’t think that’s necessarily our end goal,” Becca explained. “But I think more than anything of people who feel like they’re alone or feel like their voice isn’t being heard. You know where we are as a company; that we support them in making decisions. So I think it’s not necessarily to influence anyone, just to let people know where we are.”
It also means that Abernathy’s, as a company, is more transparent about its values and how it uses its money after the sale.
When it comes to people who are on the other side of the debate, Becca and Red just want to reach across the aisle, strike up a conversation, and remain respectful.
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“I think everyone, everyone, whether you’re a pro-choice advocate or a pro-life advocate; I hope it makes a difference to you when you see it. So hopefully you can do more research and make up your own mind,” Red said.
“Even the people who disagree with us; they respectfully disagree and don’t you know come here and rage the storm or something. We’re very lucky.” Becca adds.
The couple say the only harassment they received came from about one person on the internet, and they believe even they aren’t actually saying anything they really believe.
Additionally, they are grateful for the feedback and support they have received from like-minded customers and community members.
“I think people were grateful or appreciative that we took a stand,” Red said. “I think maybe a lot of companies are doing it more privately. So I think it’s different and in that way we influenced the pictures of the place, the window that I saw circulating, so we must have had an impact on someone in some way.”
“And other companies are reaching out to us and saying they’ve seen us take a stand and that’s encouraged them,” Becca added. “So this is a big deal. But I think at the end of the day it might have meant something to us if it didn’t mean anything to anyone, and that’s really like we kind of did. For this reason first and foremost. And then, super grateful for who it has a positive influence on.”
The couple said they want to remain committed to their causes and would be interested in using the Other Messages window if they feel strong enough about another topic to talk about.
“It’s interesting that we talked about how at least we have this platform to be able to express ourselves. We literally had to build the platform, but we were approached by other nonprofits like, ‘Hey, would you be interested? to do something like that’ and if it’s something that aligns with our values, we’re definitely interested in using it as a platform to lift others with certainty,” Becca said.
“It’s definitely a beautiful way of expressing ourselves, sure.”
Abernathy’s, which is currently running its summer sale with a 20% discount, is donating 5% of its sales to Planned Parenthood through the end of July.