Abortions rights supporters rally as part of national response to new laws

Raleigh women, supporters gather for #StopTheBans rally

A west Raleigh women’s health clinic served as the backdrop for a rally to support women’s reproductive rights Tuesday. It was one of more than 500 planned across the country as a response to recent state laws that restrict abortions
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A west Raleigh women’s health clinic served as the backdrop for a rally to support women’s reproductive rights Tuesday. It was one of more than 500 planned across the country as a response to recent state laws that restrict abortions

Wanda Urbanska comes from a long line of protesters in her family, particularly when it comes to supporting women’s rights. She wasn’t going to miss the Stop the Ban rally Tuesday in Raleigh to protest anti-abortion laws passed recently around the country.

The rally, held at a west Raleigh women’s health clinic, was one of more than 500 #StopTheBans rallies planned across the country, including nine in North Carolina, as a response to recent state laws that restrict and essentially ban abortions. Another was held in Chapel Hill.

“I feel it is my legacy to come to these protests,” Urbanska said. “My mother was a women’s rights activist and my grandmother was a suffragette in Greensboro. It’s important that we support women’s rights before they’re eroded away.”

The new laws could be used to challenge the 1973 Roe vs. Wade court decision that affirms a woman’s right to choose an abortion as a part of her health care.

About 300 people crowded in front of A Woman’s Choice Clinic off Lake Boone Trail — spilling into the driveway — and listened as speakers implored them to reach out to lawmakers about the importance of a woman’s right to choose.

Handmade signs with personalized messages were interspersed with professional printed signs saying “Stop the Bans.” One handmade sign featured a drawing of a uterus wearing boxing gloves. Another said, “We won’t go back.”

Abortion rights groups and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood, organized the rallies they called #StopTheBans.

Lawmakers in Alabama passed a state law that practically eliminates abortions beginning in 2020 with no exceptions for pregnancy or incest. It also makes it a criminal act — a felony with the potential for prison time — for doctors to do the procedure.

Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio also have passed laws tightening restrictions for women seeking abortions.

Two weeks ago, about 200 anti-abortion supporters urged state lawmakers to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 359, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act.

The call for Tuesday’s rally was made last week, said Tara Romano of NARAL-Pro Choice NC.

“A week ago we didn’t know we were going to have these rallies,” Romano said. “We’re here to show a majority of people support a woman’s right to access the health care she chooses. We’re not going to back down.”

Abortion rights supporters rally against abortion ban legislation Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at A Woman’s Choice of Raleigh clinic. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

Clinic worker Kelsea McLain warned that services offered at her office might end if Roe vs. Wade was overturned.

“Providers like this one will get shut down if we don’t stop the bans,” she said.

Molly Rivera of the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina said the crowd size exceeded her expectations.

“I’m blown away by the turnout,” Rivera said. “It shows how much the community cares about access. I’ve seen pictures from other rallies today and it makes me feel proud of our rally and how much we need to protect Roe vs. Wade. We’re here to tell politicians to stop the bans on abortions.”

Janet Goldstein lives in New York City but was in Raleigh on a business trip and sought out the rally. She attended with her Urbanska.

“I texted her Monday night and told her we needed to find a rally since I couldn’t go to the one in New York City,” Goldstein said. “My presence here is probably more important than being at the one at home.”

In North Carolina, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act says it’s a felony if doctors don’t perform life-saving measures on a baby born alive, despite an abortion attempt. It also requires medical professionals to report doctors, nurses and other staff who do not give life-saving care.

The 29 Republicans in the state Senate voted to override Cooper’s veto by a 30-20 margin with the help of one Democrat. A vote has yet to be taken in the state House, where Republicans will need at least seven Democrats to reach the 72 votes required for the override.

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.