The rain nor the sweltering Florida sun could halt hundreds of protesters from gathering in Gainesville Saturday afternoon to voice their objection on the recent abortion ruling. The group gathered at the Gainesville Courthouse almost 24 hours after the United State’s Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case.
The “We Won’t Go Back” rally was organized by the Gainesville chapter of the feminist group National Women’s Liberation. The demonstration was preceded by a teach-in on NWL activist Jenny Brown’s 2019 book “Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work” at the Alachua County Headquarters Library. The seminar was organized in response to the leaking of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion in May that alluded to Roe v. Wade being overturned, which coincided with Friday’s ruling. The teach-in featured multiple members of the NWL organization offering insights on the publication that explores the topic of abortion rights.
Attendees were given a safe space to express any opinions and tips on how to successfully organize mass movements to counter legislative strikes on abortion.
From there, everyone was encouraged to take part in the rally on the front steps of the Judge Stephan P. Mickle, Sr. Criminal Courthouse on south Main Street. Participants huddled under the courthouse’s pavilion and crammed under umbrellas as rain began to trickle down. Precipitation would be no match for the eager protesters as NWL organizers, community activists and local
residents took turns providing testimonies and sharing their thoughts on the subject of abortion, human rights and more. Gainesville NWL organizer Brooke Eliazar-Macke spoke about her satisfaction with the turnout, calling it a really great commitment from people.
Activist Chanae Jackson was one of multiple speakers at the rally and spoke in- depth about the intersectionality between reproductive health and race in the U.S.
“Reproductive health is bigger than abortion,” she said during her speech. “Black women get cancer less than other populations, guess who’s dying?” she said. “Black women.”
After the hour-long rally, the group then took to the streets. With homemade pro-abortion signs in tote, and the Gainesville sun making an appearance once again, the crowd marched towards University Avenue. Stopping at the intersection of University and Main Street, the group continued to vocalize their displeasure of recent events through various chants. The playing of drums and other percussion instruments made room for protesters to break out into dance, adding glee to the seriousness of the situation.
“Everything that’s going on is very serious, but don’t be scared,” said Eliazar-Macke.
“I think the biggest thing to just remember is we are in a difficult time but keep putting one foot forward,” she added. “Find that way to plug in and we’re going to make a change.”
The march then headed westbound on University Avenue, eventually halting at the Community Pregnancy Clinics in Midtown. There, more chants continued before the march was en route again back towards the Courthouse.
Laura Blecha, an assistant professor in the UF physics department and member of the Gainesville chapter of the National Women’s Liberation, believes the decision reverts reproductive rights back decades.
“We’ve been fighting this battle even before Roe happened. There was a hard fought grassroots campaign to win abortion rights 50 years ago, it’s not like something the court just handed down to us and we are back here again,” Blecha said.
Planned Parenthood members and regional organizers attended the protest to show their pro-choice support.
Kai Christmas, the regional organizer for Planned Parenthood, attended the protest hoping to remind everyone that they all know someone who will be affected by the 1973 Roe v. Wade case being overturned and what this could mean for contraception.
“The right to choose in Roe v. Wade was the bare minimum – it’s that and more. We need to demand access to abortion – to all forms of contraception because we know that’s coming next,” Christmas said.
Friday’s Supreme Court ruling did not surprise second-year University of Florida veterinary medicine student Danielle LaBonte. After participating in a protest in Gainesville after the draft leak in May, she anticipated the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“We got notifications about this and after the decision yesterday, we just knew that we had to come out and support,” she said. “Just for numbers purposes if nothing else.”
Her partner Austen Sallent was also in attendance and spoke on remaining aware of the current events surrounding reproductive rights despite his gender.
“At the very least I feel some obligation to have awareness and to know that it affects me even if it’s not my choice,” he said.
LaBonte also shared her thoughts on what people can do to contribute to the fight for women’s reproductive rights.
“I think just uplifting the voices of people that you know are discriminated against or in minority groups is going to be the most important thing,” she said. “And continue to boost the people that have done the work and have lived it and know what’s going on.”
The NWL is encouraging anyone in support of abortion to take their #AidAndAbetAbortion pledge and support their plans for future protests. For more information visit womensliberation.org.