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Hundreds turn out to protest abortion law at Alabama Capitol

Hundreds of people chanted, carried signs and cheered speakers at a march today at the state Capitol opposing Alabama’s new law to ban abortion.

Megan Skipper of Montgomery, one of the organizers, said she was overwhelmed by the turnout for the event, initially announced on Facebook a few days ago.

“We never planned for it to be this big,” Skipper said. “But I think this size shows us that people are mad. And we are the majority. And that abortion rights are human rights and that’s what we want for the state of Alabama.”

Gov. Kay Ivey last week signed into law a bill to make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion in Alabama. The law won’t go into effect for six months, so abortion remains legal in Alabama for now. The supporters of the legislation expect it to be blocked by federal courts and say their goal is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to lead to a review of the Roe v. Wade national abortion rights decision.

Today, the crowd opposing the law cheered speakers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Yellowhammer Fund and other organizations who denounced the law. Other speakers described their own experiences with abortion, including one who said she was a rape victim.

Other states are also passing restrictive abortion legislation that is expected to be blocked by courts, including laws that ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into pregnancy. Alabama’s new law is the most restrictive, banning abortion at any time during a pregnancy except to protect the woman from a serious health risk. There is no exception for rape and incest victims.

At today’s rally, Brynleigh Davis of Prattville, 20, carried a sign saying “Mind your own uterus.”

Davis said she came to the rally partly to represent friends who feel the same way as her but are afraid to speak out. She said it was not hard for her to speak her mind.

“I’m mad, I’m angry and I am here for the long run,” said Davis, who will be a junior at AUM this fall. “I’m here to see this just be stripped away.”

Supporters of the legislation say their goal is to protect human life and that much more is known about fetal development than was the case when Roe v. Wade was decided 46 years ago. They noted that Alabama voters approved Amendment 2 last year, which affirmed the state’s recognition of the rights of the unborn, including the right to life, and that Alabama law recognizes the unborn as victims in homicide cases.

Davis, asked what she would say to those who view abortion as the taking of a human life, said, “I would tell them that it’s OK to have their own opinion but that is not what I believe and I don’t think that they should tell anyone else what they should do with their body.”

Anna Belle May, 20, of Prattville, also said she was angry about the new law.

“It’s not something that should have happened,” May said. “We shouldn’t be having to have a protest about this. There’s separation of church and state for a reason, and we’re bringing the church into the Legislature.”

May said Sunday’s rally was her first time to attend a political protest. But she said she votes, and voted against Amendment 2 last year.

Travis Jackson of Montgomery, who volunteers as an escort for women receiving services at the abortion clinic in Montgomery, called the turnout for Sunday’s rally “magnificent.” He attributed it to the national attention on the Alabama law.

“If it was just the state’s attention, you wouldn’t have as many people out here as you see right now,” Jackson said. “But since it has the attention of America, it is a wonderful thing. It makes everybody aware of what’s really going on in the state of Alabama.

“Where there is more people there is going to be more power.”

Capt. Regina Duckett of the Montgomery Police Department said organizers expected about 500 people and she estimated the crowd was close to that.

Duckett said the event was peaceful with no arrests. She said there was a counter protest with a handful of participants but there were no incidents.

The speakers at the rally urged the marchers to continue to stay engaged on the issue and at the voting booth.

“I think it’s going to take people committing to this fight and making sure that they’re engaging with their elected officials but that they’re also being compassionate and giving to local organizations like Yellowhammer Fund to help women get access to abortion.

“It’s going to take a particular resolve and making sure that people are aware of electoral politics and that they’re staying involved in voting and contacting their legislators.

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