Reproductive rights advocates gather in front of Florida’s historic Old Capitol building to protest a Texas-style abortion ban that was filed in Florida. Oct. 2, 2021. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
From marching and singing to beeping and waving signs, protesters were out in force Saturday to fight against a Texas-style abortion ban that’s been filed in the Florida Legislature as well as attacks against transgender rights.
The marches and rallies were scheduled in cities and communities across Florida and states elsewhere on Saturday, part of a “Day of Action” nationwide as tensions rise over the threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
In Tallahassee, protesters marched to the historic Old Capitol on the capitol complex grounds, waving signs that said, “We Will Not Be Silenced,” and “Ruth sent me,” a reference to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Another sign, “Don’t Texas my Florida,” referred to the recent anti-abortion legislation filed for the January 2022 Florida legislative session that would be similar to the Texas law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The Florida legislation would allow citizens to sue people who provide or enable abortions. The bill is HB 167.
At least two protesters showcased “red handmaid” garb — a reference to The Handmaid’s Tale novel by author Margaret Atwood as well as the Hulu series. But organizers in some areas of the country had asked that the costume should not be worn because it represents control of reproductive rights and other concerns, according to news outlets.
On the Capitol grounds, protesters put down a wide banner that scrolled down the steps of the Old Capitol building. It said: “Bans Off My Body.” Another smaller sign, close by said: “Governor DeSantis, Shame on You.”
During the speeches at the Old Capitol, protesters chanted: “Hey hey, ho, ho, Ron DeSantis has got to go.” DeSantis is running for reelection in 2022.
The protesters on Saturday are under the shadow of HB 1, DeSantis’ Black Lives Matter-inspired crackdown on political protests. A federal judge has enjoined enforcement of the law for now, but organizers warned participants not to engage with counter protesters.
In Tallahassee on Saturday, there were more than 100 people and the rally was peaceful albeit somewhat loud, with cars on the roadway beeping and protesters chanting several times, such as “Our body, our choice,” and “Stand up, fight back.”
Delilah Pierre, field director for the Tallahassee Community Action Committee, told the crowd that abortion rights for women are entwined with transgender rights. Earlier this year, DeSantis signed legislation barring transgender girls from playing on girls’ team in high school and college, and legislation recently proposed would criminalize doctors who help transgender children adjust to their gender identities.
“We can still fight, we can still win,” Pierre said.
That said, the GOP controls both chambers of the Florida Legislature and there are more male lawmakers than women lawmakers.
Top GOP leaders, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have shown interest in pursuing the Texas-style bill, as does DeSantis, though encouraging citizens to snoop on each other when it comes to abortions and lawsuits may not pass muster in the Florida legislation.
Republican Kathleen Passidomo, chair of the Senate Rules Committee and next in line to become Senate President, said last month during a speech reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that she opposes having citizens sue each other to police abortions.
Meanwhile, Barbara DeVane, a longtime lobbyist for progressive causes in Tallahassee, spoke at the march Saturday, outlining how to move forward.
She recommended getting people riled up, educated, motivated and involved in elections and voting.
She also said, “It’s time for women to go on the offensive.”
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