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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Gainesville rallies after Supreme Court overturns right to abortion

Florida residents will see some changes July 1 but won’t feel effects of Supreme Court unless legislators call for a special session

Protesters gather outside of the Stephan P. Mickle, Sr., Criminal Courthouse to protest the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade Friday, June 24, 2022.
Protesters gather outside of the Stephan P. Mickle, Sr., Criminal Courthouse to protest the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade Friday, June 24, 2022.

Residents rallied at the Stephan P. Mickle, Sr., Criminal Courthouse Friday after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that established rights to obtain an abortion.

The decision removes national protections and instead allows states to determine abortion access.

“It is quite literally vote or lose rights now,” said 21-year-old UF political science senior Rachel Wolfrey.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote, “Florida will continue to defend its recently enacted pro-life reforms against state court challenges” in a Tweet Friday.

Unless Florida congress meets for a special session to discuss tighter restrictions, Florida cannot expand upon its current abortion legislation until next year’s session. A 15-week abortion ban passed earlier this year goes into effect July 1.

Thirteen states have “trigger” laws, which are abortion bans states would enforce immediately after the Supreme Court overturns the precendent. Because Florida is not a trigger state, there are no new immediate abortion bans, Wolfrey said.

Wolfrey, who is the president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action and a director at UF College Democrats and Florida Forward, helped organize Friday’s protest alongside the Gainesville chapter of National Women’s Liberation.

Politico leaked a drafted Supreme Court opinion explaining the ruling in early May. Planned Parenthood Gainesville organized a protest the next day. Counter protesters were not present at that rally or Friday’s, but some demonstrators, like 74-year-old Gainesville resident Randi Cameon, felt deja vu from decades past outside the courthouse.

“I’m mad as hell,” Cameon said. “We’ve done this fight before in my lifetime, and I cannot believe it’s happening again.”

Cameon, helped open Gainesville Women’s Health Center, one of the first abortion clinics in Gainesville.

“The Supreme Court is not thinking about reality here,” she said. “We just can’t live with not having access to abortion in this country that’s safe and legal.

In his concurring opinion Friday, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called to reconsider rulings from former cases. He specifically named the Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell rulings that legalized contraceptives, same-sex sodomy and same-sex marriage.

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“It’s absolutely terrifying,” Caroline Rabideau, a 20-year-old UF political science and international studies junior, said. “There are just so many things on the line now.”

Laura Blecha, an assistant professor in the UF physics department and member of Gainesville’s chapter of National Women’s Liberation, thinks the decision will cause unnecessary suffering for women nationwide.

People with access to resources will still find a way to receive abortions, she said. People who cannot access resources, on the other hand, will disproportionately face greater disadvantages and risks.

Wolfrey fears Florida will become a “safe-haven” state, as people in surrounding states with stricter legislation will travel to Florida, seeking abortions.

“Most of the surrounding states are about to get extremely stringent, if not completely outright banning it,” she said. “But Florida definitely isn't the blueprint for the rest of the country.”

Wolfrey encouraged supporters to donate to abortion funds, which assist those who are seeking abortion with procedural, traveling and lodging costs. The only way to truly protect reproductive rights in Florida law, Wolfrey said, is voting pro-choice officials into office before ban proposals hit Tallahassee desks next year.

​​Gainesville Commissioner and mayoral candidate David Arreola attended the rally Friday. He anticipates cities and counties will urge lawmakers to enact protective legislation and hopes the city will pass ordinances to abstain from the ban and allow free access to abortion in Gainesville.

“We’re going to have a discussion on the city commission about passing resolutions and taking some legal ground,” Arreola said. “We’re going to fight to keep it legal.”

In addition to enforcing legal protections, Arreola stressed the importance of increasing resources for clinics and maintaining abortion access and public health in Gainesville.

National Women's Liberation is hosting an online and in-person teach-in at the Downtown Public Library, located at 401 E. University Ave., Saturday at noon. National Women’s Liberation is helping to host a rally at the Alachua County Courthouse Saturday at 2 p.m.

Heather Bushman contributed to this article.

Contact Mickenzie Hannon at mhannon@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @MickenzieHannon.

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Mickenzie Hannon

Mickenzie is the city and county commission reporter for The Alligator’s Metro Desk. She is a third-year journalism major, specializing in data journalism and pursuing a master’s degree in audience analytics. When Mickenzie isn’t writing, she enjoys watching horror movies, reading, playing with her pets and attending concerts.


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