Supporters of abortion rights marched through downtown Birmingham Sunday, one of several rallies across the state in protest of a new abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey last week. The law makes performing an abortion a felony; the only exception is when there’s a serious health risk to the woman. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.
Marchers chanted “my body, hands off” and held signs decrying the law as an infringement of women’s rights. Similar rallies were held Sunday in Montgomery and Huntsville.
Speakers at the Birmingham rally encouraged those gathered to speak out, organize and vote.
“Women, you are the number one voters in the state of Alabama,” Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson told the crowd. She encouraged them to vote out state lawmakers who approved the abortion law.
Backers of the law say it’s designed to prompt a court challenge in hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“You already know that this is their stepping stone into reversing Roe,” UAB Student Satura Dudley said while addressing the rally. “What else is there for me to say except for good luck and we won’t stop fighting.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama say they will sue to block the law.
Protesters also heard from Libby Rich, who told her story of obtaining an illegal abortion in Birmingham after being denied a therapeutic abortion by a medical panel. She says the procedure left her unable to have children.
“I will no longer stay silent,” Rich said. “I ask of you to storm Montgomery.”
Joanna Mitchell traveled to the march from Gadsden, spurred in part because she says her great-grandmother died from an unsafe abortion.
“We have bodily autonomy. We’re all individuals. We’re human beings,” Mitchell says. “Whether we want to bring a child into this world is our right to decide, not somebody else sitting in the legislature.”
Erica Star Robbins helped organize the rally. She says a priority will be to educate voters ahead of national elections in 2020 and Birmingham city elections in 2021.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Robbins says. “But nothing that’s ever worth having is easy.”