Hundreds demonstrate in Duval after abortion ruling
As angry as the hundreds of women who gathered in front of the Duval County Courthouse were on Friday evening, they left disillusioned with some Democrats and determined to support candidates who support abortion rights.
Hours prior to the demonstration, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade and turned over control of abortion rights to individual states.
“Clearly, being a Democrat is not enough anymore,” said Alyx Carrasquel, intake coordinator for Florida Access Network, an organization that provides support for abortion care to pregnant people. “(We must) support pro-choice candidates.”
Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives, control the U.S. Senate and occupy the White House. Despite those advantages, the party never codified abortion access.
“We need every single person to come out,” said Jacksonville resident Jess Manchin. “Our rights are on the line, and we cannot be silent. We cannot wait. We need to fight back every day in every way.”
Manchin told a crowd of about 250 people about her abortion in 2018 while she was studying abroad in Italy. She stated she eventually wants to have children, but that now is not her time.
Earlier Friday, Northeast Florida women and girls acknowledged the effect of the opinion during a news conference in the shadow of City Hall.
Jacksonville resident Baleigh Johnson tearfully shared the backstory of how she “was forced to have an abortion” two years ago. Women in Johnson’s family have overcome suicidal ideation. When she became pregnant, Johnson confided that she also dealt with suicidal ideation.
Johnson said her abortion saved her life because it allowed her to be prescribed the medication that helped her manage her mental health crisis.
“That does not mean it was not a difficult decision. But, it was a necessary one," she said. Thanks to my abortion, I was able to take the time to seek treatment, try different medications — most of which were not approved for my pregnancy.
"Thanks to my abortion, my parents didn’t have to bury their daughter. My husband didn’t have to become a widow. And, because of my abortion, I am now on the path toward pregnancy once again. This time, I have the physical and mental stamina I know is required.
"God was with me that day, not the government. My God tells me I am made in his image and as such I am empowered, I can be trusted — as is any pregnant person — to be a moral agent here on this Earth.”
In 2020, when Johnson had her procedure, there were 74,868 abortions performed in Florida.
As of Friday afternoon, the Agency for Healthcare Administration records show 33,382 abortions performed in Florida. Since a draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization opinion was released in early May, more than 16,000 abortions have been performed in Florida.
Crischelle Bailey, an organizer for the Florida Planned Parenthood PAC, said Friday’s opinion is “the beginning of the peeling back of our rights.”
Bailey said her organization will canvass for candidates who support reproductive rights and will ramp up its voter education efforts ahead of the August primaries and November’s general election.
Moments after the press event ended, Bernadette Williams and Bailey discussed their differing perspectives on the Supreme Court ruling.
“I cannot judge because I don’t know how they were brought up or taught,” Williams said. “My decision was made on how my parents raised me.”
Williams is an anti-abortion advocate. Her position, she said Friday, was based on her experience of getting pregnant when she was 17 years old.
“I made a choice. I didn’t want to do that,” Williams said. “I was raised it was wrong to take a life. Whether it was my life or the baby’s life. I could not take a life.”
Williams notes that her teenage pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. She said Friday’s opinion that left abortion decisions to individual states is one that will lead to discussions among families, discussions among those who conceived a child and even conversations similar to the one she held with Bailey on Friday.
Williams is four decades older than Bailey. She remembers a time when abortion was not protected federally. She notes that because the decision was left to the states, people can make their own choices about whether to have the medical procedure.
“As we know with most things in this country, abortion bans will disproportionally affect those who are already struggling the most,” Johnson said. “The poor, most of whom cannot afford the ridiculously high cost of abortions let alone a child; Black, Latino and indigenous women — again, the very people Jesus has called us to center, to help. In this moment, we do not need more control. We need compassion.”