For Talia Frolkis, a young pro-choice activist, the Wisconsin Senate bill that would require abortion providers to perform trans-vaginal ultrasounds before the procedure is intensely personal. She says she was compelled to act after reading that the bill would be debated and voted on by the Assembly Thursday.
"I have been raped before and I have had to seek an abortion before, and I don't know that I would've been able to go through with it had there been a trans-vaginal ultrasound required of me, because I was really young, and I was really scared already," Frolkis says.
She worries that the legislation could endanger abortion rights and harm women psychologically.
"That's part of the reason this is so important to me," Frolkis says. "It is a violation. It is unnecessary penetration, and for some women who are seeking abortions because they've been violated already, it's just going to repeat the trauma."
"Honestly, I would've been happy if three people had shown up," says Frolkis. "I'm really happy that this many people are this upset, and I'm really pleased that so many of them are men."
The gathering seems almost quaint for those who recall the outcry over Gov. Scott Walker's actions in the winter of 2011, however. Frolkis attributes this to a feeling of despair among activists.
"The union rallies burnt people out a little bit on protesting, because we didn't get the results we were looking for," Frolkis says. "I think a lot of people have lost hope in their own voices, which is really unfortunate.
Sara Andrews, a protest attendee, is concerned that the strategy of abortion rights opponents is to work incrementally and weaken the pro-choice movement over time.
"I really feel that these laws, which actually don't sound that threatening, are just part of a long-term strategy to make abortion illegal and to make it very difficult for abortion clinics to function within the law," Andrews says.
Andrews believes if the priority is to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, education is a more effective approach than the legislation pursued by the legislature's Republican majority.
"I think that the right strategy to prevent unwanted pregnancy is education, and that's completely not supported," Andrews says. "If we had effective, comprehensive sex education, we could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies which would then actually reduce the number of abortions."
After working for the National Women's Political Caucus for 30 years, a woman at the rally who preferred to remain anonymous believes those who fight for reproductive rights need to committed to it for the long haul.
"There was a time when it was illegal to show contraception," she says. "I can remember being in Madison at a meeting with a guy by the name of Bill Baird who held up a diaphragm, and that was illegal. So some things have changed for the better, but then we've had this regression of neanderthals -- that's the only thing I can call it -- a legislature who really are not compassionate toward women and women's health."
Although she agrees with a moderate amount of regulation regarding abortions, she believes the trans-vaginal ultrasound mandate is "a travesty of justice," and that safe, legal abortions are crucial to a healthy society.
"Women historically have always had abortions all over the world, and always will," she says. "The only change is, are you going to give them medically safe abortions or are they going to end up in the emergency rooms?"
She also believes the abortion legislation passed by the Assembly Thursday represents a worrisome trend in state government.
"I just hope that things will turn around," she says. "This is not the Wisconsin that I know and that I love. This is something else that's very sad to see."