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Monday, June 24, 2024

Gainesville residents attend Kamala Harris’ Tallahassee speech on 50 years since Roe v. Wade

Event attracted about 1,500 people

Vice President Kamala Harris waves to a crowd at The Moon in Tallahassee, Fla. on the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
Vice President Kamala Harris waves to a crowd at The Moon in Tallahassee, Fla. on the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

Fifty years after the Supreme Court delivered its Roe v. Wade decision, 40 Gainesville residents traveled to a Tallahassee venue to hear Vice President Kamala Harris commemorate it.

Planned Parenthood dubbed Sunday’s event a Rally in Tally, because protesters were to gather outside the Florida Capitol to protest abortion bans.

But when Harris joined the lineup Jan. 20 at The Moon, the event shifted, said Kai Christmas, the regional organizer of Planned Parenthood. Coupled with the rain, Harris’ speech became the main event — though The Tallahassee Democrat reported that a separate protest was still to occur on Apalachee Parkway.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban into law April 14, which took effect July 1. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving abortion laws up to states’ discretion.

“Today, however, on what would have been its 50th anniversary,” Harris said to the audience, “we speak of the Roe decision in the past tense.” 

The Gainesville group traveled by bus — some attendees were affiliated with Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida and some came from UF Generation Action, one of over 350 Planned Parenthood college chapters.

Members of Planned Parenthood of South, West and Central Florida were also in attendance, while others came themselves from cities like Miami, Naples, Sarasota and Fort Lauderdale.

About 1,500 people attended.

Bella Rahn, a 20-year-old UF neuroscience sophomore, said she was hoping to see some emotion from Harris to know she actually cares about the cause.

“This isn’t just about reproductive rights,” Rahn said. “It’s about women not being able to get pregnant without being put in jail.”

Planned Parenthood’s President Alexis McGill Johnson and Florida Sen. Lauren Book, D-Davie also spoke at the event. 

Ashley Sanguino, a 19-year-old UF political science sophomore, registered for the event as soon as she heard about it through UF Generation Action, where she’s the outreach director.

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“It's been kind of a whirlpool of issues coming one after another in the world of reproductive rights,” Sanguino said.

UF Generation Action was informed of the rally Jan. 10, giving the club just 10 days to promote it, said Amelia Packham, a 19-year-old political science and women’s studies sophomore and the club’s publicity chair.

In her 19-minute speech, Harris acknowledged the Monterey Park, California, shooting Sunday that killed 11 people. She also poked fun at Florida’s “so-called leaders” and announced a presidential memorandum that will protect physicians wanting to provide Mifepristone, the first medication used in the abortion procedure.

Anjela Gurrala, a 23-year-old UF alumna who traveled with the group, said she’s always loved the idea of being a physician but has recently reconsidered given the dangers physicians face with patients seeking abortions.

“I’m not going to go to school for like 15 [to] 20 years to be like ‘Hey, I have the care. I’m just not going to give it to you,’” she said. 

The event was emotional, Gurrala said, especially during a chant the audience screamed before Harris got on stage: “Racist; sexist; anti-gay — Ron DeSantis, go away.”

Contact Lauren at Follow her on Twitter @LaurenBrensel.

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Lauren Brensel

Lauren Brensel is a journalism sophomore and a metro reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she's found going on mental health walks, being silly with friends, hiding from the public and reminding those around her that they did this song on Glee.

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