'Disappointed but not surprised': Protesters swarm Raleigh after reversal of Roe v. Wade
Content warning:This article contains mentions of sexual assault.
When Kenzi Fountain heard that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday morning, she started crying.
"It just made me feel so sick and disgusting, and it just made me feel like I don't even have control over my body anymore," she said.
Fountain has had two abortions. She had her first abortion because she became pregnant with the child of an abusive partner.
"I didn't want to live with that and have him in my life forever," she said. "And if he treated me the way that he treated me, there was no way that he would treat a child any better."
The second time Fountain had an abortion, it was because she had been sexually assaulted. She did not discover that she was pregnant until she missed her period.
Over 1,000 people, including Fountain, filled the Bicentennial Plaza in downtown Raleigh on Friday evening to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to reverse Roe v. Wade – thus ending the almost 50-year constitutional right to abortion.
A coalition of 12 local organizations, including Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Carolina Abortion Fund, Party for Socialism and Liberation Carolinas, Triangle Abortion Access Coalition, Pro-Choice North Carolina and El Pueblo, had been planning the protest for two weeks in anticipation of a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The crowd of protesters marched past the North Carolina Legislative Building and N.C. State Capitol, then returned to the Bicentennial Plaza. As they marched, they chanted "My body, my choice" and "We won't go back."
Protesters held signs that read, "We dissent," "Keep abortion legal," "Let's talk about the elephant in the womb," "I will not go quietly back to the 1950s" and "No sign is big enough to list all the reasons I'm here."
Once back at the Bicentennial Plaza, multiple speakers addressed the crowd. They emphasized the right to privacy and reproductive health care, as well as concern for the rights of people of marginalized communities.
Victoria Pittman, community organizer for Eastern North Carolina at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, was one of the speakers.
"Abortion bans strip us of our freedom to control our own bodies and make decisions that are best for our health, our families, our faith and our futures," she said. "Abortion bans especially harm Black, Latino, indigenous and other people of color because of this country's legacy of racism and discrimination."
Ashland Alley, who also attended the protest, said she was "disappointed but not surprised" by the court's ruling.
She added that she was at the event because she was angry – but also because of her personal experience.
"I am out here because I personally had to get an abortion last year," Alley said. "One thing that I realized as a young woman walking into a clinic that was slam-packed full (was) that I and two other females out of 20-plus were the only ones that were below the age of 30."
She explained that many of the people in that clinic waiting room were middle-aged, mothers or worked full-time.
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"They could not follow through with their pregnancies without compromising their own well-being or the lives that already existed in their households," she said.
Alley also said that they should not have their access taken away or even have to tell anyone that they had an abortion.
"Abortion being such an intimate circumstance and procedure, the context behind abortions and the stories we have heard of what has brought people into the clinics – they're not up for debate and they're not up for people to comment on and they're not up for people to argue or have to defend," she said.
Protester Cat Cobb said she also "was not surprised" when she heard about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.
Cobb explained that she was at the protest because she wants abortions to be accessible to everyone.
"It's an autonomy thing," she said. "People who can get pregnant deserve to make that choice for themself because it's lifesaving. I love someone who has had an abortion and nothing is ever going to change that – it's deeply personal."
Although abortions remain legal in North Carolina, she is concerned for women outside of the state who can no longer seek an abortion in their state.
At least 26 states are likely to ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Out of those 26 states, thirteen have trigger laws that either take effect immediately, by state certification or after a 30-day waiting period now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
"I'm very privileged in the account that I am able to access these things relatively easily. That is not going to be the case for poor women, for women who live in states where it's immediately banned," Cobb said. "I'm aware of my privilege living in North Carolina because people are going to come here for it."
In a statement on Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper said, "It's now up to the states to determine whether women get reproductive health care, and in North Carolina they still can."
If Republicans gain a super majority in the N.C. General Assembly in the election this November, Cooper will be unable to veto legislation that bans abortion.
"If we lose the veto override power in the N.C.G.A. this November, we will lose access to abortion in North Carolina," Pittman said.
In addition to Pittman, other protesters emphasized the importance of voting in the 2022 midterm election.
"I understand that a lot of people feel like their votes don't count, I felt that way but that's just fucking us over in the long run," Fountain said. "You need to do your research and you need to know who to vote for."
Alley also noted that knowing who is running for election is key to protecting women's reproductive rights.
"Educate yourselves, see who is in congress, who they are funded by, what they are actually about, and get out and vote because that is what we can do," she said.
Emmy Martin is the 2023-24 editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as the DTH's city & state editor and summer managing editor. Emmy is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and information science.