Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

SWFL Protesters Join National “Stop the Bans” Demonstrations Against Anti-Abortion Laws

Advocates for women's reproductive rights held a rally Tuesday outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fort Myers in solidarity with demonstrations being held across the country in opposition to anti-abortion laws legislators have adopted in five states so far in 2019. 

Passing vehicles honked and waved at demonstrators holding signs with messages like “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “My Body, My Choice,” outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers. 

The roughly two dozen protestors were there as part of a “Stop the Bans Day of Action,” which includes demonstrations across the country organized by Planned Parenthood, Indivisible chapters, the National Organization for Women, Pine Island ROAR (Rise Up/Organize/Agitate/Resist) and others. 

Protester and Fort Myers resident Marisa Hatfield held a sign with a Gadsden flag snake in the shape of a uterus reading “Support Women’s Rights” and “Don’t Tread on Me.” Hatfield said she sees the current situation as “a war on women,” but also sees it as an education issue.

“People are not educated on women’s rights.  They’re not educated on reproductive anatomy.  They’re not educated on safe sex.  It’s a sincere problem and unfortunately, I think that in those states that have already gone back to the middle ages; they’re not going to learn,” said Hatfield.

“And so in my opinion, all we can do is protect the rights that we have where we currently are until it gets overturned.”

The protests are in response to so-called ‘heartbeat’ bills that have become law this year in Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi as well as Alabama’s new law making abortion illegal in virtually all cases, including instances of rape and incest.  Under the Alabama law, doctors who perform abortions could face life in prison.

Fort Myers resident Beverly Strauss held a sign reading, “We will not go back,” in reference to the days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

“I was part of the movement to create Roe v. Wade,” said Strauss.  “And I am just so disheartened and disappointed that the people in power, the men in power, want to send us back.”

Florida lawmakers considered two contentious abortion bills this year, including a heartbeat bill and a proposal that would have required parental consent before a minor could obtain an abortion.  The heartbeat bill never made it before any legislative committee and the parental consent measure did not pass, but President of the Fort Myers/Naples chapter of NOW, Cathy Mayo, said pro-choice advocates need to remain vigilant.

“Florida could have gone either way,” said Mayo.  “In fact, I’m really surprised that we were able to stop it, but who knows about next year? I’m really disappointed in our local legislators who have not stepped up and defended women’s rights.”

Earlier this year, a survey conducted by the non-partisan public opinion research firm Perry Undem found that 73% of voters nationally do not want to see the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision overturned and that 67% say abortion should be legal in ‘all’ or ‘most’ cases.

Demonstrators for women's reproductive rights rallying outside the Fort Myers Planned Parenthood Clinic at College Pkwy and Winkler Rd
John Davis, WGCU /
/
Demonstrators for women's reproductive rights rallying outside the Fort Myers Planned Parenthood Clinic at College Pkwy and Winkler Rd
Demonstrators for women's reproductive rights rallying outside the Fort Myers Planned Parenthood Clinic at College Pkwy and Winkler Rd
John Davis, WGCU /
/
Demonstrators for women's reproductive rights rallying outside the Fort Myers Planned Parenthood Clinic at College Pkwy and Winkler Rd

Copyright 2019 WGCU

John Davis has been a full-time Reporter/Producer for WGCU since 2009. He is the local host for NPRââââ