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Monday, February 26, 2024

TAMPA — When Logan Stallings walks on Turlington Plaza and sees anti-abortion supporters’ photos of aborted fetuses, he smiles at the students with the signs.

“You kill them with kindness,” said the 21-year-old UF psychology senior. “That’s what you do.”

On Wednesday, he and several other UF students joined a Planned Parenthood rally in Tampa to protest the Republican Party’s stance against abortion and other women’s health issues.

The main issues brought up in the rally — birth control, abortion — are controversial on both sides of the political aisle. The Republican Party’s 2012 platform reads that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” and supports a Constitutional amendment to reflect that view.

The issue has been particularly charged in the past few weeks, between Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s anti-abortion stance and comments by Senate candidate Todd Akin, who suggested a woman was unlikely to get pregnant by “legitimate rape,” a comment that drew rebuke from Democrats and Republicans alike.

The rally, held at a park along Tampa’s Hillsborough River, attracted supporters from across the state who gathered into a small sea of pink shirts to listen to speakers, sing songs and chant slogans.

A woman with a red cowboy hat listened to a speaker, while a small American flag tucked in her hat flapped in the breeze. A burly man in a Planned Parenthood T-shirt walked across the amphitheater. Women in neon pink T-shirts clapped, their ponchos dotted with water from a fleeting rainstorm. A supporter dressed in a habit wore a band around her forehead reading, “Nun for you.”

Outside the entrance to the park, a single protester stood by an anti-abortion sign with large photos of aborted fetuses. The sign was similar to a truck that had driven around the conference area most of the day with an anti-abortion message on its side.

A handful of UF students stood among the cheering crowd, clapping for speakers, like a 26-year-old woman dressed as a pack of birth control pills.

For Stallings, coming to Tampa for a day was well worth making up work in his classes.

And even though he’s male, he stood among the mostly female crowd with his pink T-shirt in support.

“I feel what’s good for women is good for me because I’m around them all the time,” he said. “Their health matters to me because a lot of my loved ones are women.”

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Tim D’Annecy, a 21-year-old UF political science senior and president of Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood at UF, said he tries to bring attention to local and state legislation that affects health issues. But this event was about bringing attention to the RNC and the Republican Party’s platform.

“I don’t think, personally, that women’s health should be a partisan issue,” he said. “Women’s rights are human rights.”

He said he plans to continue to get the word out on campus about state bills that limit abortion access.

Allison Sumilang, an 18-year-old UF accounting sophomore and member of Vox, said Gainesville is fairly receptive of Planned Parenthood’s mission, but that effects of health legislation go beyond UF’s campus.

“Reproductive rights — this affects everyone,” she said.

Contact Meredith Rutland at mrutland@alligator.org.

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