Hundreds rally in downtown Orlando to protest abortion bans

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PHOTO CRED: XANDER PETERS
  • Photo cred: Xander Peters
In response to the anti-abortion measures passed in states like Alabama and Missouri in recent weeks, demonstrators gathered Sunday in downtown Orlando to send a clear message to state lawmakers: her body, her rights. 

Hundreds attended, as the march circled Lake Eola Park before it wandered up Central Boulevard and down Orange Avenue, ending in front of Orlando City Hall just after 12 p.m. As they chanted and shouted down a select few pro-life, "MAGA" hat-wearing counter-demonstrators lined along the path, protesters waved signs that read "keep your filthy laws off my drawers"; "my pussy, my choice"; and "abortion could've prevented Trump"; among others.

Included among the protest's speakers were organizer Alyssa Leann; Stephanie Pineiro, a social worker who's led the Central Florida Women's Emergency Fund since 2015; Nathan Bruemmer, a self-identified trans man and the executive director of ALSO Youth in Sarasota; community activists Guerdy Remy and Amaris Leon; Florida NOW state president Kim Porteous; Kathy Smhmitz, a minister and a Board member of the Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health and Justice; and, of course, firebrand feminist and former Planned Parenthood official, state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.



Speaking to the crowd, Eskamani noted the large turnout. She said it spoke to the majority of Americans who support reproductive rights, and that it "speaks to lawmakers across the state of Florida that if you try to follow suit with Alabama, Missouri and Georgia, these folks are going to be at your office."

A Reuters/Ipsol poll conducted earlier this month found that 58 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 50 percent who said that in a similar poll conducted in July 2018.

During the final weeks of the 2019 legislative session last month, a bill that would have required minors in Florida to receive parental consent before they're able to undergo an abortion procedure stalled in a state Senate committee. A similar House version of the bill was previously approved along strict party lines, despite the fact that Florida law already requires parents to be notified if their daughter is planning to undergo an abortion.

Eskamani told the crowd the failed legislation should be treated as a forewarning for the future.

"I don't think this is so much about pro-life," protester Karen Wade told Orlando Weekly prior to the march, referring to the recent anti-abortion measures passed in several reliably conservative states. "They won't ban AR-15s. They won't provide healthcare. They put children in cages. It's really more about oppression, and I think with the huge turn we had in Congress [in 2018], with that many women being elected, it's scaring the heck out those politicians because they're about to be voted out by women."

Wade paused and then added: "And they're seeing that."

Jo Evans, who attended the protest with Wade, pointed to the newly appointed conservatives sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court as state lawmakers' reason for pushing strict anti-abortion measures.

"And with the state of the Supreme Court, I think the goal is to get Roe v. Wade in front of it to be overturned," Evans said. "I really think that's what it's all about, as well as just oppressing women."

Standing in front of City Hall, as the rally began to come to a close for the day, Cecilia Ross admitted to how today's march hit closer to home for her.

"My daughter had a complicated pregnancy last year, and in order for that to be resolved, she was given chemo drugs that would continue flushing out the fetus that wasn't viable," Ross said. "If [Alabama's] law was passed [in Florida], that would've been illegal, and it would've killed her."

As Ross turned to duck underneath the shade, and as Eskamani's voice crescendoed from atop City Hall's steps, a little girl walked by. Her voice several octaves higher than the rest of the chanting crowd, she pumped a sign several times in the air as she yelled out, "My body! My rights!"

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