know about Chapel Hill residents hold reproductive rights rally, counter-protesters attend
Pro-choice protesters gathered at the Freedom For All protest at Peace and Justice Plaza in downtown Chapel Hill on August 26, Women’s Equality Day. Pro-life counter-protesters also attended.
Speakers at the protest included Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils, Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tempore Karen Stegman, and Sen. Pallavi Maladkar, a UNC junior and graduate student. Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents, along with students from UNC, Duke and Campbell University, attended the protest.
Representatives from the North Carolina National Organization for Women and NextGen America shared information and people registered to vote.
“On June 24, half of the American population woke up to a reality where we no longer have a constitutional right to our own bodies,” Maladkar said.
Samantha Batley, a rally attendee, said Roe’s rollover made her sick.
“We fought so hard to get it in the first place and it seems like it was revoked overnight and everyone told us not to worry, it’s never going to happen,” Batley said. “You’re screaming wolf. And here we are. It occurred.”
Batley said she worries that other rights would be taken away from her if they were, including her right to be in an interracial marriage.
During her speech at the protest, Seils also discussed other rights she fears are at stake after Roe was struck down, including rights to contraception and marriage equality.
“People fighting for more restrictions on abortion access in North Carolina won’t stop there, so we need to be vigilant every step of the way and fight it every step of the way,” Seils said.
Several passing cars honked their horns or waved at protesters in support, which Maladkar said added to the atmosphere.
After the protest, Maladkar, who also spoke at the Redirect the Rage rally on campus this summer, said he recently discovered the power of protest.
“Honestly, I find it to be a really therapeutic place for me, to be around people who strongly believe in the same things that I believe in and who want to fight for change,” she said.
Stegman urged protesters to vote and help others vote for pro-choice candidates in November. He also instructed them to donate to pro-choice candidates and call their representatives.
“North Carolina, right now, is a beacon for the South, for women seeking attention and we need to fight for that,” Stegman said. “They’re counting on us to keep abortion safe, to keep it legal in our state, so this fight is for us, but it’s also for them.”
A handful of pro-life counter-protesters also attended the event.
Counter-protester Lydia Taylor, a Campbell University sophomore and president of Campbell Students for Life, was in the US Supreme Court when Roe v. Wade.
Taylor said she and her Vice President Ethan Davis drove from Campbell to attend the protest in Chapel Hill and its sister protest in Raleigh on Aug. 27.
The rest of the pro-life protesters at the Aug. 26 event were from the Chapel Hill area.
Maladkar said she was glad that the pro-life protesters did not come to disrupt the demonstration, but to engage in dialogue with the pro-choice protesters.
“Part of what we do is break the stereotype that defenders of life just yell at women and want to send them to hell and we are religious extremists,” Taylor said.
After the protest, Taylor said she doesn’t think abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.
“My question would be, why are we willing to give a child the death penalty for the actions of his father?” he said.
Taylor said cases in which the life of the mother is at risk are not defined as abortion by her organization because they consider abortion “the intentional killing of a human being’s life.” In cases where the mother’s life is at risk, she said saving the mother’s life should be prioritized.
However, Taylor said that in cases where the fetus is not viable, the fetus still needs to be carried to term. She also said concerns that women’s health care would be compromised by Roe’s overturning are unfounded.
Seils said pro-choice citizens fight for the rights of all people, including pro-lifers.
“I think there’s a bit of irony in dealing with a group of counter-protesters like that, who don’t seem to understand that these rights that we’re fighting for are rights for everyone,” he said. “We no longer want the government to make decisions about their sexuality, their social life, their reproductive decisions.”
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