Abortion rights protesters gather in downtown Fayetteville

The sun broke through cloudy skies on Saturday morning as cheers and chants erupted through the Market House from abortion rights protesters.

Helen Reddy’s song “I Am Woman” filled the Market House in downtown Fayetteville as protesters began to rally.

Weeks after a draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court leaked suggesting the court could overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling that protects access to abortion, the Fayetteville chapter of the National Organization of Women held two protests, the second on Saturday.

Pamela Carver, President of the Fayetteville Chapter of NOW, spoke about the importance of protecting the right to safe abortions.

“People in your community and across the country deserve the power and freedom to make their own choices when it comes to personal protection,” Carver said. “Having a baby should be a choice, not a government mandate.”

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Protestors during the abortion rights protest at the Market House on Saturday.

Protesters like Hanh Nguyen said it was important to participate because it was none of the politician’s business if a woman had an abortion.

Nguyen said she was appalled when she heard about the leaked US Supreme Court draft opinion.

“It’s not that I was alive when it wasn’t legal, but I hear stories of people who died to have abortions,” she said. “As people have said before, it doesn’t stop abortions from happening, it just stops safe abortions.”

A protester spoke about the dark history before abortions became legal.

“Every hospital in the country had a dedicated gynecology ward for women who had had illegal abortions and…were almost dead when their friends brought them to the emergency room,” Jill Neeld said.

Neeld also spoke about the change in life after women won the right to have abortions.

“Women started graduating from high school and women started going to college,” she said. “Women started getting their master’s degrees and going to law school. We had an application to get into these schools and an application to get into law school and we did.”

For Rachel Locke, it was important to participate in the demonstration because an abortion saved her life.

“Without an abortion 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I had an ectopic pregnancy while on birth control and then my son, who was born six years later, wouldn’t have been here because of that. So I support every woman’s right to ‘have one, whether she just wants it or whether it’s a medical necessity.”

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For other protesters like Christin Niles, this wasn’t their first rodeo. She said she had participated in the Women’s March in Washington, DC before, but this was her first time demonstrating in Fayetteville.

Protestors from the Fayetteville Chapter of NOW demonstrate in downtown Fayetteville.

Niles held a sign at the protest that read “You don’t like abortion? Just ignore them like you ignore the 400,000 foster children.”

“So they’re so preoccupied with a cell group, but yet most forced births don’t adopt, they don’t foster,” she said. “They are only involved in the community to tell us what to do with our bodies.”

Several politicians were also present at the protest, including U.S. Senate candidate BK Maginnis, 7th Congressional District candidate Charles Evans, District 2 City Council incumbent Shakeyla Ingram and 43rd House District candidate Kimberly Hardy.

Hardy shared a story with protesters about how difficult it was to make the decision to have an abortion.

“People talk about this decision (to have an abortion) like it’s so flippant that it’s nothing to go and have this procedure,” she said. “I’ve never said that publicly but I’ve been one of those women and it’s not an easy decision to make.”

Many downtown drivers honked their horns in support of the protesters. There were a few drivers who shouted negative comments at the crowd instead of honking their horns.

One protester pleaded for older people to remember what it was like to guide young people.

“We need to talk to young people because they don’t remember not going to college because they might get pregnant,” she said. “These young people won’t remember what that life was like and we have to show them and remind them so they don’t go through what we went through.”

Editor Akira Kyles can be reached at [email protected]

David H. Henry