Dozens of people gathered Saturday morning at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill for a rally to “protect women’s rights” after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion.
The rally was organized by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. Dawna Jones, president of the local NAACP chapter, told The News & Observer before the rally that she wanted the gathering to provide a source of community following the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“As a woman and as a Black woman, for myself, I just felt like I needed to be in community,” Jones said. “I needed to be somewhere where people understood what I was feeling and give myself an outlet for the rage that I was feeling all day yesterday.”
The diverse crowd included a wide range of age groups, races and genders. People held signs with sayings including “Abortion is health care,” “Keep abortion safe and legal” and “Abortions save lives.” Throughout the event, speakers led the crowd in call-and-response chants such as “We won’t go back” and “Forward together, not one step back.”
Speakers at the event ranged from local elected officials to representatives of advocacy organizations to members of the Orange County community.
The speakers largely focused on taking action by voting for local, state and national candidates who have vowed to protect the right to an abortion in North Carolina.
Abortions are still legal in North Carolina after the Supreme Court’s ruling, but many speakers said they feared it could only be a matter of time — or one election cycle that brings an increase in Republican representatives at the state level — before that changes.
“Don’t be hopeless. Don’t give up,” Chapel Hill Town Council member Camille Berry said. “Vote.”
Barbara Foushee, a member of the Carrboro Town Council, said the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling was “just the tip of the iceberg” and that other rights currently protected by previous Supreme Court rulings could be next, especially if people do not actively work against it.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in his concurring opinion to Friday’s majority opinion that he believes the court should reconsider several “due process precedents” that it has set in previous rulings.
“What else tomorrow?” Foushee asked the crowd. “Voting rights, contraception, same-sex marriages. The list could go on and on.”
Some speakers shared their previous experiences advocating for abortion rights in the pre-Roe era, while others shared their personal experiences receiving an abortion after the original Roe decision in 1973.
“I’m 72 years old. I was in college. I did this once,” said Orange County Commissioner Anna Richards of her work supporting abortion rights prior to Roe. “I never intended to do it again. What is wrong with us? What is wrong with this country that we are taking rights away?”
Rep. Allen Buansi, who represents part of Orange County in the N.C. General Assembly, focused his remarks on the role of men in the fight for abortion rights.
“All of us have a responsibility to advocate for abortion access,” he said.
La-Ontra Bacon, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and a member of the university’s Black Student Movement, told The N&O after the rally that she “never would have thought that something as simple as abortion rights would be taken away from me.”
Bacon said she felt supported and cared for by the crowd at the event, and said she hoped people would continue to take action and fight for abortion rights after leaving the rally.
“I do have faith in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community that they’re really fighting for our rights,” Bacon said.