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‘We won’t go back’: Protesters remain steadfast, committed to abortion rights

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 7/13/2022 Natalia Galicza, Chris Perkins, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Protesters gather for Bans Off Our Bodies 2022 Delray Woman's March Rally for Reproductive Rights at the Old School Square in Delray Beach on May 14. © Mike Stocker / South Florida/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS Protesters gather for Bans Off Our Bodies 2022 Delray Woman's March Rally for Reproductive Rights at the Old School Square in Delray Beach on May 14.

An hour before the official start time of the “Bans Off Our Bodies” abortion rights protest rally, a sea of signs began forming under the line of palm trees facing the Fort Lauderdale courthouse and federal building.

Soon afterward, about 75 people stood in the sweltering sun and chanted: “We won’t go back!”

The crowd swelled to 100 by 3 p.m., the starting time, and the gathering stretched from the Third Avenue traffic light to Southeast First Avenue.

By 4 p.m., between 800 and 1,000 people were amassed, according to Laure Woodward Garcia, co-lead of Broward for Progress.

The protest, organized by Broward for Progress and funded by the Women’s March, marks a fervent response to recent federal and state restrictions to abortion access.

Last month, the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, its 1973 decision to offer federal protections for abortion. And at the start of July, Florida followed with a 15-week abortion ban — the ban increases restrictions to its previous abortion laws, which allowed the procedure up until 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Hundreds of abortion rights protesters line up along Broward Boulevard at the steps of the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, to protest the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. © Mike Stocker / South Florida/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS Hundreds of abortion rights protesters line up along Broward Boulevard at the steps of the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, to protest the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Teenage girls, mothers and their toddlers stood near traffic with signs: “Mom by choice, Mom pro-choice,” and “It’s time to ovary-act,” and “Someone you love has had an abortion.”

Ana Anselmo, 52, co-lead of Broward for Progress, stood under shade and guided the crowd to spread down the sidewalk and take up as much space as possible.

”The rights that I had growing up, my child does not have,” Anselmo said. “We want to let our representatives know that we’re watching, we know what’s going on, and we’re against it. But we also need to let our neighbors know they’re not alone.”

The Bans Off Our Bodies Walkout, scheduled nationwide on Wednesday afternoon, was described on its website as a “national day of action to amplify the fight for abortion rights across the U.S., show support for abortion providers, and set the stage for actions over the next few months.”

It advised those who were able to leave work to use an out-of-office message explaining they have joined the nationwide effort to call attention to abortion rights.

It’s unclear how many walked off the job. But enthusiasm was high at the protest.

Despite high temperatures of 93 degrees at 3 p.m. with a “feels like” temperature of 103 degrees, protesters weren’t deterred until about 4:45 p.m. when hundreds of people filtered out of the crowd as clouds threatened rain overhead.

Chants through megaphones continued for those who stayed and passing cars continued to honk in support. Organizers say the protest was met with little to no pushback, save for a single passer-by who flipped the crowd off and shouted expletives.

Heather Nagel, 33, showed up in a neon green tutu, a matching green tank top and her blonde hair tied into two buns. She said the Tinkerbell ensemble was meant to boost morale.

”I like to keep the energy up,” Nagel said.

Though inspired by her experiences as a chef in a male-dominated industry, Nagel said she took inspiration for marching and protesting from the women in her family who came before her.

She said her aunt, who lived to age 101, attended women’s rights protests until her death and kept a purse filled with about 50 pins from all her marches.

”If our generation doesn’t do anything, the next generation can’t learn,” Nagel said.

Alaina Finn, a 26-year-old from New Jersey, held a sign with information on how to order abortion pills online.

”It’s a fundamental right to have control of your body,” Finn said. “It just makes me so sad for all the women out there and all the pregnant women who are scared of having to deliver a child they weren’t expecting.”

South Florida has seen numerous abortion rights protests since news was leaked about the Supreme Court’s intent to overturn Roe v. Wade in early May.

Days after the leaked news, an abortion rights rally in Fort Lauderdale drew a diverse crowd, and an abortion rights rally in Delray Beach attracted hundreds to Old School Square.

There were expressions of support and outrage on social media when the Supreme Court ruling was officially announced.

The online notice for Wednesday’s protest in Fort Lauderdale said, “We must organize to sound an undeniable alarm to emboldened local lawmakers that they cannot further erode an already insufficient right to abortion and sexual and reproductive healthcare for so many.”

Sisters Vanessa and Layla Verdi arrived as a family. One of them held a sign that said, “Focus on the born.”

Layla Verdi, 23, said she came to protest the notion that restrictions on women’s bodies take legislative priority over mistreated and neglected women and girls.

Vanessa Verdi, 24, said she came to support her community and her sisters.

”We’re in objection of the reversal of Roe v. Wade,” she said, “and coming out here as a family surrounded by all these people feels extra supportive.”

©2022 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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