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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Gainesville groups gather downtown to fight against Florida’s six-week ban

Protesters encourage more action and awareness

Activists in support of abortion rights pictured across from Gainesville City Hall on Saturday, April 6, 2024.
Activists in support of abortion rights pictured across from Gainesville City Hall on Saturday, April 6, 2024.

In the midst of downtown traffic and an afternoon sun, around 50 community members gathered together in Gainesville City Hall Plaza on East University Avenue April 6 at 1:00 p.m. to protest against Florida Supreme Court’s six-week abortion ban taking effect May 1. 

Florida’s highest court upheld the state’s 15-week abortion law April 1, triggering a six-week ban. In a separate ruling, however, the court will grant voters an opportunity to vote in November on abortion’s constitutional protection.

The ruling makes the sunshine state one of the most restrictive places in the country to undergo an abortion. Florida will join several other states like Michigan and Ohio, where voters have weighed in directly on reproductive rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

National Women’s Liberation, Gainesville Radical Reproductive Rights Network, League of Women Voters and Planned Parenthood Generation Action were some of the community groups leading the downtown protest. 

Citizens at the protest took turns speaking to the crowd, sharing their stories, comments, concerns and hopes.

Mariah McGovern is a 32-year-old advocate who resonates deeply with abortion issues. She said she grew up around women, looking after her five younger sisters. 

McGovern believes any degree of involvement can go a long way and said she encourages everyone to use their voices however possible.

“Getting out there and even just attending a meeting is really so impactful,” she said.

District 3 Commissioner Casey Willits attended the protest, encouraging citizens to be active voters and push against the ban. 

“That is how democracy happens,” he said. “One conversation at a time, one doorstep, one doorknock.” 

Willits spoke to the crowd addressing his concerns for the city’s education system. 

A lack of reproductive healthcare can discourage doctors from studying at UF and harming educational life here, he said. 

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Brianna Oswalt, is the 20-year-old president of Santa Fe College chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action. As a sexual abuse survivor, Oswalt said she never wants to be complacent, and she will always fight for women who have gone through similar experiences. 

“If I am doing something with my own body, my own life, why does someone across the state need to know?” she said.

Oswalt said being educated on the issue is one way of advocating and looking at neutral publications or legislation trackers can be a great way to get started.

Jacob Brouard is a 10-year-old activist and the son of Amy Trask, a candidate running for the Florida House District 22. 

The pair attended the event to stand in solidarity with the community. 

“My mom and I really like petitioning and we like helping women’s rights,” he said. 

Organizations passed out pamphlets with more medical and legislative information and encouraged citizens to partake in Yes on 4, a campaign dedicated to protecting abortions in the sunshine state. 

The groups are planning more protests and are scheduled to be in Orlando April 13 and again in Gainesville April 20 at the Civic Media Center on South Main Street.

Contact Nicole Beltran at Follow her on X @nicolebeltg.

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Nicole Beltran

Nicole Beltran is a second-year journalism and economics major. This is her first semester as the race and equity reporter. She has previously worked as a translator and editor for El Caimán. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, trying new foods and drawing.

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