Abortion Rights Supporters Pack Capitol Steps As Legal Fights Loom
Holding signs reading “Stop the bans,” "Our bodies, our choice" and “You, yes you: run for office!” several hundred people spilled out from the steps to the street outside the Gold Dome Tuesday afternoon.
They chanted, "Abortion is a human right, and we won't go without a fight," and "Hey hey, ho ho, abortion bans have got to go," while speakers from groups such as Sister Song and the American Civil Liberties of Georgia reminded the crowd abortion is still legal in Georgia and urged them to stay involved in their calls for expanded reproductive rights.
It's part of a nationwide day of action from abortion rights groups that oppose tighter abortion restrictions that have been passed in several states. That includes Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp signed the so-called "heartbeat" bill two weeks ago, one of the toughest laws in the country once (and if) it takes effect.
Legal challenges to these laws could take years to resolve, with both supporters and opponents of these measures watching the U.S. Supreme Court for a potential review of previous decisions regarding abortion.
But Eshe Shukura with the group Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be put on notice at the ballot box in 2020.
“We will be advocating for the issue," Shukura said after the rally. "We will make sure that reproductive justice is a word in every politician’s mouth and that they will have to address how they will support our people.”
ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young said that while her group and others are seeking to challenge Georgia's abortion ban before it can take effect, stopping the ban is not where the work stops.
“Our goal is that we are working not only to prevent this bill from going into effect, but also using this energy to actually expand women’s access to reproductive health care,” Young said. “That means Medicaid expansion, it means making sure women have access to reproductive healthcare at every stage of their life and that it’s affordable and accessible for all.”
State Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell) has spoken out against the bill throughout the legislative process as a lawmaker and as a woman who is seven months pregnant. Addressing the crowd, Thomas said that her fellow lawmakers needed to focus on other health issues in the state, like maternal mortality rates.
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“Georgia is the number one state for maternal mortality, but I’m going to tell you something," Thomas said to an enthusiastic audience. "I’m seven months pregnant, and I’m not going to die... I’m going to live so I can have this baby, so that this baby can stand next year with me and fight for women’s rights!”
Many of the speakers also reminded people that abortion is still legal in Georgia up to 20 weeks, like Kwajelyn Jackson of the Feminist Women's Health Center, an abortion provider in Georgia.
"I'm going to start by saying what I've been repeating and what I'm going to keep repeating until I have no voice left: This clinic stays open," Jackson said.