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Chapel Hill residents hold rally for reproductive rights, counter-protesters attend

Freedom for All Protest
Pro-Choice protesters and pro-life counter-protesters rallied at the Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill on Aug. 26, 2022.

Pro-choice protesters rallied at the Freedom For All protest in the Peace and Justice Plaza in downtown Chapel Hill on Aug. 26 — Women’s Equality Day. Pro-life counter-protesters were also in attendance. 

Speakers at the protest included Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils, Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tempore Karen Stegman and UNC junior and Undergraduate Senator Pallavi Maladkar. Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents, along with students from UNC, Duke and Campbell University, attended the protest.

Representatives from the North Carolina National Organization for Women and NextGen America shared information and registered people to vote. 

“On June 24, half of America's population woke up to a reality in which we no longer have a constitutional right to our own bodies,” Maladkar said.

Rally attendee Samantha Batley said that the overturning of Roe made her sick.

“We fought really hard to get it in the first place and it just seems like it was overturned overnight and everybody told us don’t worry about it, it will never happen,” Batley said. “You’re screaming wolf. And here we are. It happened.”

Batley said she is worried that other rights might be taken away if abortion rights were – even her right to be in an interracial marriage. 

During his speech at the protest, Seils also discussed other rights he is afraid are at stake after Roe was overturned, including the rights to contraceptives and marriage equality.

“The folks who are fighting for more restrictions on abortion access in North Carolina are not going to stop there and so we need to be watching every step of the way, and fighting it every step of the way,” Seils said.

Several cars that drove by honked their horns or waved to protesters in support, which Maladkar said added to the atmosphere.

After the protest, Maladkar, who also spoke at the Redirect the Rage rally on campus this summer, said that she has recently discovered the power of protest.

“I find that it's a really therapeutic place for me honestly, to be surrounded by people who believe strongly in the same things I believe in, and want to fight for change,” she said.

Stegman urged protesters to vote and help others vote in November for pro-choice candidates. She also instructed them to donate to pro-choice candidates and to call their representatives.

“North Carolina, right now, is a beacon for the South, for women seeking care and we need to fight for that,” Stegman said. “They are counting on us to keep abortion safe, to keep it legal in our state, so this fight is for us, but it's also for them.”

A handful of pro-life counter-protesters also attended the event.

Counter-protester Lydia Taylor, a Campbell University sophomore and the Campbell Students for Life president, was at the U.S. Supreme Court when Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

Taylor said she and her Vice President Ethan Davis drove from Campbell to attend the protest in Chapel Hill and its sister protest in Raleigh on Aug. 27. 

The rest of the pro-life protesters at the event on Aug. 26 were from the Chapel Hill area.

Maladkar said she was glad the pro-life protesters did not come to disrupt the rally, but to engage in dialogue with pro-choice protesters.

“Part of what we do is ending the stereotype that pro-lifers just yell at women and want to send them to hell and we're religious extremists,” Taylor said.

After the protest, Taylor said she doesn’t believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.

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“My question would be, why are we willing to give a child the death penalty for the actions of its father?" she said.

Taylor said that cases in which the mother’s life is at risk are not defined as abortion by her organization because they consider abortion “the intentional killing of a human’s life.” In cases where the mother's life is at risk, she said saving the mother’s life should be prioritized.

However, Taylor said that in cases where the fetus is not viable, the fetus should still be carried to term. She also said that concerns that women’s healthcare will be compromised by Roe’s overturning are unfounded.

Seils said that pro-choice citizens fight for the rights of all people, including those who are pro-life. 

"I think there's a little bit of irony in dealing with a group of counter-protesters like that, who don't seem to understand that these rights we're fighting for are rights for everyone," he said. "We don't want the government making decisions about their sexuality, their social lives, their reproductive decisions anymore.”


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