People protest in Winston-Salem Tuesday during the #StopTheBans day of action to demonstrate against some states passing restrictive abortion bills. Nearly 100 protesters gathered on both sides of Miller Street at its intersection with First Street and Stratford Road.
Nearly 100 protesters demonstrated Tuesday in Winston-Salem for women’s abortion rights and reproductive freedom, holding signs and chanting slogans such as “My Body, My Choice.”
The demonstrators gathered on both sides of Miller Street at its intersection with First Street and Stratford Road. The local protesters coincided with abortion-rights supporters holding rallies Tuesday in Washington, D.C., statehouses and other cities nationwide to oppose the wave of sweeping abortion bans being enacted this year in Midwestern and Southern states.
Organizers — including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the American Civil Liberties Union — predicted that tens of thousands of people would attend hundreds of events scheduled Tuesday in all 50 states.
The “National Day of Action to Stop the Bans” came in response to a near-total ban on abortion recently signed into law in Alabama, as well as bills enacted or nearing passage in Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana aimed at banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
That can happen in the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. Missouri legislators have passed an eight-week ban.
None of the laws has taken effect, and all will likely be blocked while legal challenges play out. Ban supporters hope one or more of the measures might reach the Supreme Court and possibly trigger reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
In Washington, a demonstration outside the Supreme Court drew hundreds of protesters and several Democratic presidential candidates.
Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, in addition to Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio, were among the attendees as multiple members of Congress spoke to a crowd that hoisted signs defending abortion rights.
“I cannot tell you how important this moment in our country’s history is,” Gillibrand said. “Do not allow this moment to lapse without putting everything you can behind it. Organize, advocate and vote.”
Amid a warm 86 degrees and sunny skies in Winston-Salem, protesters held signs that said, “Stop the War on Women. Stop the Abortion Ban,” “Grab Them by the Patriarchy,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and “My Uterus My Business! Your Sperm Your Business! Protect Reproductive Rights.”
The protesters included mostly women, but several men participated in the rally. Some drivers honked their horns as they passed by the demonstrators. The drivers, their passengers and protesters often waved at each other.
Lois Roewade of Pfafftown, who is affiliated with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said she organized the local protest to rally against the states that have passed restrictive abortion laws.
“These states have gone too far,” Roewade said. “We need to stand up and shout out that we do not support that kind legislation here in North Carolina.”
The rally in Winston-Salem was held a day before the Republican-majority N.C. House was expected to vote whether to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 359, which would instruct medical professionals to care specifically for newborns who survive an abortion. The legislation would enact new punishments for physicians and nurses who don’t comply with the law or who fail to report noncompliance.
Under the legislation, doctors and nurses would face felony charges, prison time and up to $250,000 in fines.
State legislators passed the bill earlier this year, but Cooper vetoed it on April 18.
“They keep putting it off because they (House Republicans) don’t have the votes to override it yet,” Roewade said of the N.C. House’s pending vote today. “We are hopeful that they won’t get the votes to override it.”
State Rep. Debra Conrad and state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, both Forsyth County Republicans, voted for the legislation earlier this year. Neither could be reached Tuesday to comment on the protest or their views about the pending House vote to override Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 359.
Roewade and other protesters pointed to a ruling by U.S. District Judge William Osteen who declared on March 26 that a 2016 state law banning women from having abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy except in a medical emergency was unconstitutional.
Osteen gave state legislators 60 days before his ruling takes effect to allow them time to amend abortion restrictions or appeal his ruling to a higher court.
Another bill, Senate Bill 547, appears to have been submitted in reaction to a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court protects abortion as a constitutional right for women until a fetus has developed enough to live outside the mother’s womb.
The bill would require physicians performing abortions to report to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services whether and how they determined if a fetus was at the stage of feeling pain before performing the procedure and their decision-making process for proceeding with abortion.
Katherine McGinnis of Winston-Salem, a demonstrator, said that the bill to restrict women’s abortion rights must be decided quickly.
“It’s hanging on by its fingernails,” McGinnis said about the legality of abortions. “It’s important that our voices not disappear.”
Jillian Powell and her friend, Jacob Davis, both of Rural Retreat, Va., traveled from their southwestern Virginia homes to protest in Winston-Salem.
“It’s personally my choice and not anyone’s else if I need an abortion in case if I get raped,” Powell said.
Davis said he supports abortion rights for women.
“I don’t believe a man or the government should decide what a woman can do with her body,” Davis said.
Wayne Franklin of Winston-Salem held a sign that said, “Keep Abortions Legal.” Franklin said he doubted if Republican legislators in Raleigh will listen to the protesters’ call for abortion rights for women.
“It’s important to support people to make choices about their own bodies,” Franklin said.