A hush fell over the crowd gathered to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in downtown Chapel Hill's Peace and Justice Plaza on Saturday as Chapel Hill Town Council member Camille Berry shared the story of her pregnancy in 1993.
The pregnancy was Berry’s second, just two years after the birth of her first child.
After multiple visits to the doctor with her husband, the doctor concluded she was experiencing a life-threatening miscarriage. The doctor recommended that she seriously consider having an abortion.
“So we went home, and we cried,” she said.
Over the next few weeks and after much thought, Berry and her husband decided to have an abortion.
Because Berry and her family were in the midst of moving to Nashville, Tennessee, when she had to make the decision, she was unable to see her doctor before leaving.
Berry said she could not find a doctor who would perform the procedure in Nashville, so she went to Planned Parenthood with her husband and her daughter.
“As I was sitting in the waiting room, I questioned again, 'Why was I doing this?’,” she said. “I was doing it because there was a huge risk that I was not willing to take. There was a risk of life. Yes, there were two lives, but there were two others as well. If something happened to me, imagine my partner and our small child.”
Berry was one of many speakers who shared their experiences at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP’s rally to protect women’s rights. The event was held 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that ended nearly half a century of the constitutional right to an abortion.
Community members held up signs that read, “Give me autonomy or give me death,” “Stop the war on women” and “Can’t believe we still have to protest this bull.”
Chants rang out through the streets. Cars passing by the courthouse honked in support and were met with clapping and cheers in response.
Rising UNC senior Cora Martin held up a sign that read, “70% of Americans dissent.” Martin said they burst into tears when they first saw the decision, as abortion was an important issue to them and the reason they first started organizing.
“It feels awful, it feels really disempowering and it makes me feel really pessimistic,” Martin said.
UNC Student Body President Taliajah "Teddy" Vann, who also attended the protest, said she felt heartbroken to be carrying on a fight that her grandmother had to be a part of.
She said she felt afraid of what the future would be like and that she was not feeling excited about what life would be like after graduating from UNC.
"As a child, like a lot of young girls, I imagined I'd grow up and maybe would have a family, would have a husband, would have children if I chose those things for myself," she said. "'Choice' being the operative word there, because this would only be a decision if it was one I made for me."
Orange County Democratic Party Acting Chair Phyllis Portie-Ascott said she believed in the “inherent goodness of people” and did not think that Roe v. Wade would be overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was leaked in May.
Portie-Ascott said when she saw the decision on Friday, it caused her to ponder a sentiment she had internalized her whole life: that the U.S. is the greatest country on Earth.
“How is it that the greatest country on Earth can make this decision?” she said. “I'm heartbroken for a country that's becoming unrecognizable to me. I'm heartbroken for those women who fought for Roe v. Wade. Those women will be negatively impacted, y’all.”
She said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision told women all over the world that they are not worthy of making decisions about their bodies.
As a mother of two teenage children, Portie-Ascott also spoke about the challenges of being a mother.
“I can testify that being a mom is hard,” she said. “It's really difficult. And before becoming a mom, I didn't even realize all the sacrifices that moms make. So it's not something that anybody needs to take lightly. It’s a lifelong commitment, supporting another human being. I know that. I know y'all know that.”
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