An abortion ban went into effect in Texas last month, leaving people in the state with no choice to terminate pregnancies after six weeks. Now a similar bill has been tabled before the next Florida legislature.
the Florida Heartbeat Act, officially known as House Bill 167, would prevent doctors from performing abortions once a heartbeat is detected. After six weeks, many people don’t know they are pregnant.
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In response, people of all ages gathered in Colonial Drive Park last weekend to stand up for reproductive rights. Signs such as “Ruth Sent Me” and “Bans Off My Body” adorned the field as around 250 demonstrators listened to various speeches. Many of the speakers stressed the importance of calling their Florida lawmakers and telling them to vote no to the proposed law.
“We have the right to autonomy over our bodies,” said Kelli Ann Thomas, one of the organizers of the rally. “Regardless of whether you believe in abortion or not, you as a woman should be able to make that decision yourself and this right should not be violated by the government.”
Thomas works with Florida Rising, a political organization focused on empowering black and brown communities. She said the ban particularly affects women of color, who are often overlooked by the government and health system.
“The government should be there for the people, listen to the people and protect the people,” said Thomas. “If you are someone who wants to save lives, don’t racist measures after this child is born.”
Ali Crane is a family nurse in an OBGYN office. She hopes Florida doesn’t follow Texas in imposing such a “strict” and “scary” ban. She said the bill would have a profound impact on her professional life.
“I think it is very important that my patients and their families can make the right decisions about their bodies and their lives and their financial situation, their emotional situation,” said Crane. “Who says what is the right and wrong choice for anyone but the person himself?”
Crane attended the march with her 12-year-old daughter. She believes it is important to empower her and her choices.
“She’s coming at the age when her sexual reproductive rights might just be at stake,” added Crane. “I think it is important that you and your friends understand that as a woman you have the right to do what you want with your body.”
Crane’s daughter was one of many young girls who attended. From toddlers to college students, Generation Z members stood alongside seasoned protesters.
Camila Ustarez, a 21-year-old student at Florida International University, said it was daunting still having to defend reproductive rights.
“We thought we made it through, but we clearly are not,” she said. “We see older women here with signs saying, ‘Do we still have to protest against this?’ We feel like we’re changing women’s rights, but then that happens. “
“I’m sick of wearing this sign! Pro Roe since 1973.”
She says the proposed ban is frightening for young women who should have access to healthy and safe abortions. The large youth participation in the protests surprised Ustarez – especially all young girls. She stressed the importance of girls learning to stand up for their freedom of choice.
Nathalie Schwart, a freshman at Coral Gables Senior High School, came to the march to hear her voice.
“For future generations, I believe that everything that happens well now has an impact on the future,” said Schwart. “We grow up knowing that we are not equal. That just kills a lot of people. “
Schwart said although she had sex education in school, the issue of abortion was never discussed. Florida allows school districts to determine how sex education is implemented. The districts can choose between a pure abstinence, a plus abstinence or a comprehensive approach. Now that she’s in high school, Schwart hopes she and her peers can get more information.
“I think it should be talked about more – when things are talked about, change happens,” said Schwart. “I don’t know if a lot of the guys in my class know about it, so hopefully people can be better educated in the future.”
She was happy to see so many attendees, including members of her temple. Rachel Greengrass is the rabbi of Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest. She said health care is very important in Judaism. Although attitudes towards abortion vary from rabbi to rabbi, Greengrass says that Judaism defines life from the first breath.
“What I find difficult is when people use religion as an excuse to dictate that a woman’s physical and mental health are not as important as life’s potential,” said Greengrass.
She said forcing people to have children is contrary to what she considers sacred and right. Rather than depriving them of choice, Greengrass believes the government should focus on providing support and social safety nets to women and families in difficulty.
“If you are truly a religious person and value life, then you need to take care of the people who are currently living and breathing,” she said. “Many people focus so much on having a fetus in utero when we should really focus on children when they are born and when they are adults.”
Young boys who accompanied their mother and sister during the march sang “their body, their choice”.
Not only women protested for reproductive rights. Husbands and sons showed solidarity for the people in their lives who would be affected by abortion bans. Throughout the march, when women sang “my body”, they sang “their choice”.
Kelly Rock Gomes, 36, said when it comes to reproductive rights, men should support the government representation that women want. He attended the march with his wife.
“Every time we let our foot off the gas, things like Texas law come into play,” said Gomes. “We have to show up and keep this in mind for the community.”
Gomes encourages people to be proactive and get involved in community events. He said it is easy to post on social media or have an opinion, but it is work that will make change.
“If women did to men what men do to women, they’d probably have a problem with it, too,” said Gomes. “But it seems like something they ignore unless we come out and give our opinion so they can vote as they need to vote.”
During this term, the US Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. Proponents of reproductive rights fear that the judges may set the Roe v. Calf could tip over.