Thousands rally across Florida in support of Roe. v. Wade
Among the two dozen or so cities that hosted rallies in Florida were Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Tallahassee, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Sarasota, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Viera and Delay Beach.
Protesters in Florida and around the country voiced their support for abortion rights at hundreds of "Bans Off Our Bodies" rallies on Saturday.
The events follow a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that shows it may overturn Roe v. Wade. They also come days after the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have legalized abortion nationally.
Among the two dozen or so cities that hosted rallies in Florida were Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Sarasota, Lakeland, Viera and Delay Beach.
Hundreds of people gathered in Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in downtown Tampa, chanting things like, “What do we want? Choices! When do we want it? Always!” The group eventually marched to Curtis Hixon Park.
Brooke Ritter is an obstetrician-gynecologist from Clearwater and came to the rally with her teenage daughter. Ritter said she is worried about how a potential overturning of Roe and a new law in Florida that bans abortions after 15 weeks could affect her patients.
“I'm frightened because I don't want to deal with any of the repercussions of unsafe abortions, which will happen. We've seen it before, we'll see it again,” she said, adding that some patients have already come to her asking for long-term birth control in fear of future restrictions to abortion access.
Gabrielle Scrogham stood with a sign that read “Abortion is health care” and said accessing safe abortions is a fundamental right.
"Everyone deserves health care,” she said. “Abortion is critical for protecting people's lives. That includes LGBTQ and trans lives, that includes women's lives, that includes the lives of people of color. Everyone needs it and we deserve it.”
Truck driver Ashley Watson and her niece donned bright pink shirts and feathery pink hats. Watson said she wants to teach her niece that it’s important to speak up and said she is worried about could happen if Roe is overturned.
“This is just going to open up a can of worms if this goes through, so now is the time to use our voice, ‘Bans off our bodies, our bodies, our choice.’ We deserve privacy,” she said.
Erin Quigley seconded that concern. She came to the rally with her girlfriend and members of her family and said she fears striking down Roe could fuel challenges to other rights.
“First it's the abortion rights and then it's going to be, you know, the right to same-sex marriage and that's going to be taken away, that's in serious jeopardy right now,” Quigley said.
Her father, Brendan Quigley, said he considers himself a Republican, but said the party's efforts to restrict abortion access has him thinking he'll vote against them in upcoming elections.
“Because I think the government should stay away from women's bodies. They shouldn’t regulate that, that’s not something they need to be going — they’ve got other things they could be working on,” he said.
Organizers of the rally said their top priorities are getting people to vote for politicians who support abortion rights and helping women, trans men, and nonbinary people access the reproductive health care they need.
Bernice Lauredan directs voter engagement with the advocacy group Dream Defenders. She said another goal her group is focusing on is convincing state attorneys to agree not to prosecute abortion-related crimes.
Lauredan said she is concerned Florida lawmakers will go beyond the 15-week ban if Roe is overturned.
“So we’re really looking to have state attorneys not prosecute, to have local and statewide officials stand up and say, ‘Hey this is wrong,’ and defend our rights to Roe,” she said.
Older women in attendance said they were disturbed they had to keep fighting for abortion access after so many years.
A younger woman, Halen Wrath, who is preparing to have her first child, said she hopes people will finally listen.
“I just hope whoever I bring into this world doesn’t have to have the same fight as I do,” she said, carrying a sign that read “Pregnant, pro-choice and proud.”
In Tallahassee, demonstrators gathered in front of the Historic Florida Capitol. By 11 a.m., several hundred people had gathered. Among them were Linda Rivers, Lakey Love and David Fabis.
"We just keep on fighting. I thought this was settled 50 years ago," said Rivers.
Love, a Tallahassee activist who was among the event speakers, told those gathered, "We won't back down. You can't come after the most marginalized. You can't come after the most discriminated against."
"It will stay an issue," said Fabis, "this is not going to calm down. The majority of the people right now are for keeping it the way it is."
Several speakers then reamplified those thoughts from the podium on the Capitol steps. A number of them also voiced fears abortion opponents might enact other reproductive restrictions in the future.
Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7