Thousands of Tennesseans protested for abortion rights on Friday

By: - June 26, 2022 1:16 pm
More than 1,000 protesters in Nashville on Friday filled the city streets to voice displeasure with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. (Photo: John Partipilo)

More than 1,000 protesters in Nashville on Friday filled the city streets to voice displeasure with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. (Photo: John Partipilo)

More than a thousand women marched through downtown Nashville Friday to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade, creating a clear path for Tennessee’s abortion “trigger ban” law to go into effect. 

Abortion-rights advocates met at the Legislative Plaza to discuss the future for thousands of women who may soon be unable to seek out abortions in Tennessee. 

Earlier that morning, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery filed an emergency motion seeking to lift a stay on a 6-week abortion ban enacted by the state legislature in 2020 — hours after the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous decision kicking abortion decisions back to individual states.

“It’s an emotional day. We knew this was coming but it still stings,” said Kelsie Hankins Hughes, who attended the rally with her husband, Mike Hughes. 

“It’s easy to be silent but change doesn’t happen by being silent when 50 years of rights were revoked,” said Hughes. 

Among the protestors were young women seemingly in disbelief that they woke up with less rights on Friday morning than those their parents had at the same ages. Two teenage sisters, one wearing a “Handmaid’s Tale” costume, listened intently to the rising chants among the crowded square. 

“F— the courts, f— the state, we must decide our fate,” they chanted. 

The teenage sisters discussed their futures in Tennessee. Although they were ardent supporters of the right to an abortion, they live in a small town and fear they are now at risk at being targetted and harassed for being open about their views among conservative peers. For this reason, they asked to remain anonymous.

“Separation of church and state is not happening here,” said one of the pair.

“They’re basically taking everything the constitution says about freedom of religion and throwing it out the window,” said the other. 

Despite their worry, the women drove to Nashville as soon as they heard a rally had been organized to oppose the Supreme Court decision that morning. One of the sisters, who recently turned 19, registered to vote Friday morning as well. 

As the crowd marched to the Nashville Metropolitan Courthouse, speakers converged upon stone bollards and benches to address the crowd’s anger through hope.

In response to upcoming Tennessee’s abortion trigger ban, Abortion Access Nashville announced a fundraiser to help women seeking abortions to cross state lines.

A woman dressed as a character from Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." (Photo: John Partipilo)
A woman dressed as a character from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” (Photo: John Partipilo)

Metro Nashville Councilmember Delishia Porterfield filed a resolution on Friday opposing the Supreme Court decision and requesting that the Metro Nashville Police Department not  enforce the abortion ban and prevent harrassment outside abortion clinics. Porterfield also requested that the Metro Department of Human Resources create an ordinance to prevent employee discrimination based on reproductive health decisions.

Several other candidates spoke as well, including Charlane Oliver, a Democratic candidate for State Senate District 19, and Odessa Kelly, District 7 congressional candidate. Both women pleaded with the massive crowd to both register to vote and to vote, and bring 10 more people to vote with them. 

Tennessee has historically ranked as one of the lowest states in the nation for voter turnout, with fewer than 60% of the state’s voting-eligible population casting a ballot in the 2020 presidential election. 

This needs to desperately change, Kelly and Oliver said. 

“I will not abide by any law whatsoever that’s gonna impede on my right as a human being to say what’s right for me to govern my own body, and I suggest that you do the same,” Kelly said.    

Another speaker, Worker’s Dignity Director Cecilia Prado, noted that the Supreme Court made several decisions that could impede on their rights. 

On Thursday, the court limited the ability to enforce Miranda Rights and that suspects cannot sue a police officer if the evidence was eventually used against them in a criminal trial. The court also ruled that all Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self defense.    

Calling the rulings a move towards facism, Prado urged the crowd to advocate for real change through unions, opposing capitalism and asking for true democracy, not “Supreme Court rulings that can be overturned.”

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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.