From marching and singing to beeping and waving signs, protesters were out in force Saturday to fight against a Texas-style abortion ban that’s been filed in the Florida Legislature as well as attacks against transgender rights.
The marches and rallies were scheduled in cities and communities across Florida and states elsewhere on Saturday, part of a “Day of Action” nationwide as tensions rise over the threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
In Tallahassee, protesters marched to the historic Old Capitol on the capitol complex grounds, waving signs that said, “We Will Not Be Silenced,” and “Ruth sent me,” a reference to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Another sign, “Don’t Texas my Florida,” referred to the recent anti-abortion legislation filed for the January 2022 Florida legislative session that would be similar to the Texas law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The Florida legislation would allow citizens to sue people who provide or enable abortions. The bill is HB 167.
At least two protesters showcased “red handmaid” garb — a reference to The Handmaid’s Tale novel by author Margaret Atwood as well as the Hulu series. But organizers in some areas of the country had asked that the costume should not be worn because it represents control of reproductive rights and other concerns, according to news outlets.
On the Capitol grounds, protesters put down a wide banner that scrolled down the steps of the Old Capitol building. It said: “Bans Off My Body.” Another smaller sign, close by said: “Governor DeSantis, Shame on You.”
During the speeches at the Old Capitol, protesters chanted: “Hey hey, ho, ho, Ron DeSantis has got to go.” DeSantis is running for reelection in 2022.
The protesters on Saturday are under the shadow of HB 1, DeSantis’ Black Lives Matter-inspired crackdown on political protests. A federal judge has enjoined enforcement of the law for now, but organizers warned participants not to engage with counter protesters.
In Tallahassee on Saturday, there were more than 100 people and the rally was peaceful albeit somewhat loud, with cars on the roadway beeping and protesters chanting several times, such as “Our body, our choice,” and “Stand up, fight back.”
Delilah Pierre, field director for the Tallahassee Community Action Committee, told the crowd that abortion rights for women are entwined with transgender rights. Earlier this year, DeSantis signed legislation barring transgender girls from playing on girls’ team in high school and college, and legislation recently proposed would criminalize doctors who help transgender children adjust to their gender identities.
“We can still fight, we can still win,” Pierre said.
That said, the GOP controls both chambers of the Florida Legislature and there are more male lawmakers than women lawmakers.
Top GOP leaders, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have shown interest in pursuing the Texas-style bill, as does DeSantis, though encouraging citizens to snoop on each other when it comes to abortions and lawsuits may not pass muster in the Florida legislation.
Republican Kathleen Passidomo, chair of the Senate Rules Committee and next in line to become Senate President, said last month during a speech reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that she opposes having citizens sue each other to police abortions.
Meanwhile, Barbara DeVane, a longtime lobbyist for progressive causes in Tallahassee, spoke at the march Saturday, outlining how to move forward.
She recommended getting people riled up, educated, motivated and involved in elections and voting.
She also said, “It’s time for women to go on the offensive.”
–Diane Rado, Florida Phoenix
Amid an escalating Republican assault on reproductive rights and a looming U.S. Supreme Court reckoning, women and allies across the United States and around the world took to the streets Saturday to #RallyForAbortionJustice and defend Roe v. Wade.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C, New York City, Los Angeles, and more than 600 other cities and towns, according to Women’s March, the event organizer.
“No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this moment is dark—it is dark—but that’s why we’re here,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, told participants at the Washington, D.C. protest. “It is our job to imagine the light, even when we can’t see it. It is our job to turn pain into purpose. It is our job to turn pain into power.”
At the Houston rally—where signs read “Abort Abbott” in protest of S.B. 8, Texas’ draconian abortion law signed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott—more than 10,000 people turned out, with many chanting, “Our bodies, our choice.”
In Washington, D.C., Women’s March executive director Rachel O’Leary Carmona described the wave of GOP anti-choice laws in at least 16 states as an “unprecedented attack” on reproductive rights.
“For a long time, groups of us were ringing the alarm bell around abortion access and many of us were told we were hysterical and Roe v. Wade will never be overturned,” Carmona told USA Today. “But now it’s clear that our fears were both rational and proportional.”
Women’s March says that by refusing to block the Texas law—which bans abortions after six weeks without exceptions for rape or incest, and offers $10,000 bounties for vigilantes who successfully sue anyone who “aids or abets” the medical procedure—the Supreme Court “effectively took the next step towards overturning Roe v. Wade.”
In May, the Supreme Court announced it will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s near-total abortion ban, a case that author Lauren Rankin warned “may very well be the death knell for Roe v. Wade” given the high court’s conservative supermajority.
Nearly all House Democrats came together last week to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) in response to the Texas law and amid mounting fears that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe. According to the advocacy group Equal Access to Abortion, Everywhere, the WHPA would establish “a statutory right for health care providers to provide, and their patients to receive, abortion care free from medically unnecessary restrictions, limitations, and bans that delay, and at times, completely obstruct, access to abortion.”
However, the bill faces an uphill battle in an evenly split Senate in which anti-choice Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) oppose the measure.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted Saturday that Americans “support the right to a safe, legal abortion.”
Speakers at Saturday’s rallies emphasized the harm caused by anti-choice laws. Planned Parenthood of Illinois senior director of public policy Brigid Leahy told the Associated Press at the Springfield march that women started traveling to Illinois two days after the Texas law took effect.
“They are trying to figure out paying for airfare or gas or a train ticket, they may need hotel and meals,” she said. “They have to figure out time off of work, and they have to figure out childcare. This can be a real struggle.”