From Huntsville to Mobile, Birmingham to Montgomery, thousands of Alabamians gathered on Sunday to protest the state’s new abortion law, widely considered the most restrictive in the country.
“I think this size shows us people are crazy,” said Megan Skipper, one of the organizers of the Montgomery rally. “And we are the majority and abortion rights are human rights and that’s what we want for the state of Alabama.”
The law, signed by Governor Kay Ivey last week, includes no exceptions for rape and incest cases, prohibiting all abortions except when necessary to avoid serious health problems for the woman. Although women are exempt from criminal and civil liability, the new law punishes doctors for performing an abortion, making the procedure a Class A felony punishable by 99 years in prison. The law won’t go into effect for six months, although supporters and opponents expect it to be blocked in federal courts.
Opponents of the bill began staging protests and rallies late last week. After announcing a rally in Montgomery on Sunday, organizers in other cities scheduled their rallies for the same day.
Montgomery’s March for Reproductive Freedom began Sunday at the Court Square fountain.
“We never expected it to be this big,” said Megan Skipper of Montgomery, one of the organizers. “But I think that size shows us people are crazy. And we are the majority and abortion rights are human rights and that is what we want for the state of Alabama.
The crowd applauded speakers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the Yellowhammer Fund and other organizations, as well as those who shared their personal experiences.
“We shouldn’t have to hold a protest about this,” said Anna Belle May, 20, of Prattville, who said it was her first time participating in a protest. “There is separation of church and state for a reason, and we bring the church to the legislature.”
In Birmingham, a crowd of 2,000 joined in the ‘March for Reproductive Freedom’, which started and ended at Kelly Ingram Park and included a rally.
Sarah Dillie, an OBGYN, marched alongside other doctors in white coats to protest the criminalization of the ban on doctors who perform abortions.
“I’m here because doing my job shouldn’t be criminalized. I don’t think I should be considered a criminal for doing something that is part of comprehensive women’s health care.
The walkers marched around Kelly Ingram Park shouting “my body, my choice” and “hey hey, ho ho, abortion bans must go.”
Huntsville Police estimated as many as 1,000 participants at the “My Body, My Choice” rally at Butler Green Park in Huntsville on Sunday afternoon.
“We come together because we don’t support what’s going on right now,” organizer Megan Eller said. “It’s not Alabama that I know of, and I’m crazy about the way Alabama is portrayed to the rest of the world. I refuse to be part of it.
The rally was originally scheduled in Palace Square, but was later moved after more than 1,000 responses to the event on Facebook.
A few anti-abortion protesters showed up and were heckled by some of the abortion rights protesters.
During the rally, protesters chanted “my body, my choice” and “this is what democracy looks like”.
Mobile held two rallies, starting the weekend with a Saturday rally in Bienville Square and a march around downtown Mobile.
“It is important for us to bring the community together,” said Katherine Brown, organizer of the rally, which was organized by the Mobile Bay Green Party and the Alabama Coalition for Reproductive Rights. A similar rally and march took place on Sunday.
“People are upset,” she said. “People are hurt. They feel they have not been heard.
In the Shoals, protesters gathered at the Florence post office for a Shoals neighborhood March for Reproductive Freedom rally.
A rally in Anniston is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the corner of Route 202 and Noble Street.
Auburn high school students are organizing a “Stand Up, Let Your Voices Be Beard” rally at the State Capitol next Saturday at 10:30 am.