In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights advocates met to rally in protest at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge on Friday. The rally, organized by the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, packed the small church.
Louisiana is one of thirteen states with trigger laws that went into effect after the Supreme Court decision. Almost all abortions are now illegal in Louisiana.
Throughout the event, several local advocacy leaders and activists spoke to the crowd, and two speakers shared their heartfelt experience of getting an abortion.
Angela Adkins, coordinator for 10,000 Women Louisiana, noted that justice Clarence Thomas suggested that the Supreme Court reconsider “substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” which could mean that rights to birth control and same-sex marriage could be on the chopping block.
Ashley Sheffield, an LSU alumna and abortion-rights activist, said that inequality of abortion rights, environmental justice, police brutality and lack of health care access in the pandemic are all issues that must be faced at once.
“We have to see that the head of this Hydra is the same force that binds all of our marginalized identities together. And in this time, we need to come together,” Sheffield said.
Paola Colmenares, a Kinesiology and Spanish Senior and Feminists in Action secretary, said she felt hopeless as someone who plans to be a medical provider in the future.
“How am I supposed to have hope and be excited to provide essential health care? When you tell me that abortion providing doctors can face up to a fine of a hundred thousand dollars and up to 10 years in jail, how am I supposed to feel for our country’s future?” Colmenares said.
Senate Bill 342, which was passed on June 17, allowed for one to 10 years of prison time for abortion provides, a $10,000 to $100,000 fine, or both. Penalties for late term abortions are even greater.
Jeramesha Warner, Community Organizer for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said that her clinic would continue to supply non-abortion health care and would work to connect people to the care they need.
Planned Parenthood locations in Louisiana did not provide abortion services prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe.
“Right now, the only thing that we can do is guide them to places where they can access abortions safely and legally,” Warner said. “Places like Illinois, North Carolina.”
Kayla Meyers, LSU law student and former Feminists in Action secretary, talked about her experience as a clinic escort and how the overturning of Roe affected her.
“I am absolutely devastated,” Meyers said. “But I’m trying to stay hopeful.”
Meyers said the decision has given her new motivation in law school and that she hopes to be able to use her degree to participate in the fight for reproductive rights.
Adkins summed up the mood of the rally by referencing a poem shared by another speaker. “Today is the day for tears, but tomorrow we fight,” Adkins said.