COBLESKILL — When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last month, effectively gutting abortion rights after nearly 50 years of precedent, Rodney Brooker wanted to keep the issue on the minds of voters heading into this year’s mid-term elections.
So, he lowered the deck of his 60-inch Kubota tractor and headed to his backyard overlooking Route 145 and began mowing a message into the side of a hill.
“Women’s Rights,” reads the message, which stands out amid a field of tall grass and is easily spotted by anyone driving along the roadway heading north out of Cobleskill.
“I just put that out there so as people drive by they have that in the forethought of their mind so when they come to the voting booth maybe they think that way,” said Brooker, who noted women should have a say in matters pertaining to their health care.
It’s not the first time the 59-year-old has mowed a message into his lawn. Brooker has been at it every year since 1988, when he mowed “it’s a boy” into the grass, alerting neighbors about the birth of his son.
In the 34 years since, Brooker has mowed a variety of messages into his lawn, including advertisements of local businesses and a peace sign during the early days of the pandemic. He also had a message encouraging passersby to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Brooker said he can’t remember all the messages, but noted community members often stop to ask him what he has planned for the upcoming year.
“It’s just a good spot where everybody can see it, so I figured this would be a good time to do that,” he said.
Reaction to the message — which required some advanced planning and about 45 minutes of mowing — has been positive so far, according to Brooker, who plans to maintain the message throughout the summer.
“People have seen it and they are for it,” he said. “It’s definitely gotten the word out, so it keeps it in the back of peoples’ minds.”
Reactions to the June 24 Supreme Court decision have been swift, with Republican-led states moving to ban or severely restrict access to abortion procedures. Several states, including Ohio, have no exceptions with rape.
A majority of Americans believe access to abortion should be legal, according to public polling. Widespread demonstrations have taken place across the country, including several locally, in protest of the court’s decision.
In states where the procedure is protected, lawmakers have sought to further protect a woman’s right to choose. In New York, lawmakers, earlier this year, passed legislation to codify abortion and contraceptive access into the state’s constitution and have set aside millions as part of the Abortion Provider Support Fund to ensure safe access to abortion procedures for everyone.
But for Brooker, the message is simple.
“I strongly believe women should have a right to choose their own health care,” he said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.