More than 1,000 reproductive rights supporters protested the Supreme Court's draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade at the Bans Off Our Bodies rally in Orlando — one of hundreds held across the nation Saturday.
Voices from the rally: Watch the video for highlights from the speeches and hear what demonstrators had to say.
Abortion rights supporters packed the Orlando City Hall plaza Saturday for the Bans Of Our Bodies rally in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, published May 2 by Politico, indicating the likely overturn of Roe v. Wade.
The landmark 1973 ruling legalized abortion throughout the country and stopped states from banning it before “fetal viability” — when the fetus can survive outside the womb, now considered around 24 weeks. Florida’s new ban on abortions after 15 weeks goes into effect July 1. It’s unclear whether the state will ban abortions outright if Roe is overturned and regulation returns to the states.
The Bans Off Our Bodies rally was one of hundreds held throughout the state and across the country over the weekend. Orlando Police Department estimated the crowd size to be about 1,000 while rally organizers claimed 2,000.
A cluster of antiabortion activists demonstrated at the edge of the rally, prompting prochoice advocates to block their signs and drown them out as they chanted, “Our bodies! Our choice!”
State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D-Orlando) led the rally, which featured a diverse lineup of women and transgender speakers as well as candidates for the Florida House, running to represent Winter Garden and Ocoee. They urged demonstrators to make their anger felt at the ballot box.
(Florida primary elections are August 23 and the midterm election is November 8. Check your voting status here.)
“I am an African-American, Christian woman who firmly believes that the government, the legislature, the governor and the Supreme Court have no business in my body!” shouted LaVon Bracy Davis, sister to State Sen. Randolph Bracy and a candidate in Florida House District 40, which now includes Ocoee.
Bracy said that the people who will be most impacted if Roe is overturned are racial and ethnic minorities without regular access to healthcare and those without the means to travel to obtain an abortion. “Not only is this classist and sexist, it is also racist.”
Eskamani pointed to the “irony” of the GOP’s efforts. “As Republicans work to ban abortion around the country, they’ve preempted earned sick time in Florida. We don’t have paid family leave. We don’t have free childcare. Every 68 seconds someone is sexually assaulted. And folks cannot even afford housing in our state, or they go bankrupt from medical bills. We have so many problems to solve in this country, but the one that my Republican colleagues go after is banning abortion.
“It’s all because conservative politicians in power today know that this country is moving in a direction that does not allow them to maintain power and control," she continued. "They see this country is changing. This change scares them. And they will do everything they can to stop that change through control and coercion.”
But Eskmani assured demonstrators, “The antidote to despair is action.”
“Generations before us have fought tirelessly to gain and protect the rights that we have today, and we will not back down,” she told the crowd, proudly noting its diversity, which spanned age, race, ethnicity and gender.
“We’re going to fight to make sure everyone has the power to control their bodies, their lives and their futures. And we deserve elected officials at all levels of government including the courts to believe in those values as well.”
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