Large crowd marches at Capitol against Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion law

A large crowd of abortion rights supporters rallied at the Georgia Capitol and marched in opposition to Georgia’s “heartbeat” law, which bans abortion after cardiac activity is detected, typically six weeks.

The crowd assembled on Washington Street SW shortly after noon to start the mile march to CNN Center, chanting, “My body, my choice.”

Organized under the name #DoBetterGA, the gathering wanted to bring attention to House Bill 481, which was signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp. The changes take effect in January but face a certain court challenge before then; Liliana Bakhtiari, speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast, promised it.

“Kemp, we have a message for you,” Bakhtiari said. “You will be seeing us in court soon.”

Abortion rights supporters gather Saturday, May 25, 2019, at the Capitol in Atlanta to protest Georgia's "heartbeat" bill. (Photo: Amanda C. Coyne/AJC)

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The crowd, carrying signs and chanting pro-abortion rights slogans, filled Washington Street in front of the Capitol . But it all started with a group of college-aged activists and “20 or 30” messages to friends, said Molly Weston, a 19-year-old from Atlanta and one of the event’s co-organizers.

“The magnitude of this is something we never anticipated,” Weston said. “This is the first event we’ve organized, and we’ve gotten a lot of help from other activists and the ACLU.”

Speakers at the event came from other pro-abortion rights activist groups including Georgia’s chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Black Votes Matter. Many of those who spoke emphasized that the abortion law and similar legislation does not only impact women, but the population at large.

Wanda Mosley, of Black Votes Matter, addresses a crowd of pro-abortion rights demonstrators at the Georiga Capitol.

Credit: Amanda C. Coyne

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Credit: Amanda C. Coyne

“An attack on abortions is an attack on the bodily autonomy of all folks,” said Amina Ali, a Georgia State University student and president of the school’s chapter of URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality). “This is not about men making decisions about women’s bodies, or white women making decisions about people of color’s bodies. We need to realize that no one should be making any decisions about anyone’s bodies.”

The passage of HB 481 has led some in the entertainment industry to call for a boycott of Georgia, which has been a hub for movie and TV production in recent years. Two members of the film industry spoke at the rally, saying that they believed a boycott was not the right way to combat the law. Instead, they said, they believed they needed to stay and fight.

Molly Coffee, a lifelong Georgia resident who has worked in the film industry for 10 years, said she and many others in the industry have purposefully chose to remain in Georgia instead of decamping for New York or Los Angeles because they love the state, and they want to help keep the industry robust in Georgia while remaining politically active.

“Many of us have made the career choices to allow us to stay here and build our families and our lives,” Coffee said. “Please know that Georgia’s hardworking women and many men in this industry will continue to be the resistance on the inside.

Speakers also encouraged the crowd to continue their activism after the march was long done by contacting legislators and voting against those who vote for legislation like HB 481.

“We see your playbook. We know what you’re up to,” said Wanda Mosley of Black Votes Matter. “We will organize, strategize, resist and win.”

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