More than 100 protestors marched across downtown Alpharetta to support reproductive freedom after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Demonstrators, led by Students for 75, a nonpartisan group of college and high school students mostly from Alpharetta and Forsyth County, gathered at the Avalon shopping center off Old Milton Parkway on Saturday, July 2, before marching 1.18 miles — or 75,000 inches — to Alpharetta City Hall.
The group said the distance was purposeful, showing support to the 75,000 people they said could be forced to give birth in the next year as states across the U.S. aim to enact legislation limiting or banning abortion.
Roe v. Wade provided a constitutional right to abortion after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973.
The group said they hope the 75,000 inches will help make an impact and show solidarity to “the thousands of people across the nation who have been denied the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion and will instead be made to give birth, travel across state lines, or resort to self-managed methods of terminating their pregnancy.”
‘Make ourselves heard’
Several local and state organizations helped organize the demonstration, including Young Democrats of Georgia, Gen Z for Change and Voters of Tomorrow along with Bob Christian, a local Democrat running for U.S. House District 6 in November, and his campaign.
“We really wanted to just come out and show our support in this community for reproductive rights across the nation, and we thought what better way to do it than with student groups in the area,” said Sarah Mitchell, a local student working on Christian’s campaign.
While protestors marched through Alpharetta with chants of “my body, my choice,” and “this is what democracy looks like,” Christian made his way through the crowd, talking with locals about their thoughts on reproductive rights.
He said that’s one of the reasons he wanted to get involved and help organize the demonstration: to give students and community members an avenue to have their voices — and anger — heard.
While the group, including students, other residents and families continued the march, Christian said he wanted to make it clear that the Supreme Court’s decision will have an impact on everyone, not just women.
“Although [it’s who is] affected the most, it also affected young people, it affected old people, it affected people my age, it affected everybody because all of us know at least one woman in our lives,” Christian told the Forsyth County News. “Personally, I’m a father to two daughters, I’m a husband, I have two sisters, there’s my mom, my wife has three sisters …. I have a life full of women. And now, suddenly, my daughter doesn’t have the same rights my wife grew up with. And my wife doesn’t have the same rights that our parents fought for. And that’s crap.”
Christian said the only solution to this issue now is to get out in the community and show state and local leaders that there is support for reversing the decision. He said residents need to head the polls and vote in November.
“We have to stop this erosion of our rights by the GOP, and the only way to do it is to make ourselves heard and continue to elect Democrats to Congress,” Christian said.
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What students had to say
Some students from Forsyth County who were marching with the group shared their feelings about the Supreme Court’s decision on June 24.
Saniya Bhardwaj, a recent West Forsyth High School graduate, said she found out about the decision on social media and at first thought it wasn’t true.
“I thought, ‘Did they really do this?’” Bhardwaj said. “I didn’t grasp it [for] a couple of days.”
Another West Forsyth graduate and environmental activist, Hannah Testa, said she was at work the morning news broke. Testa said she and her coworkers gathered in a circle to hold hands while they processed what was going on.
“Even though we all knew this was coming, I think it still hit so hard to know that we had less rights than we did the day before,” Testa said. “And it was really out of our control. We had no say in this decision, and we can’t really do much besides put pressure on the Supreme Court and on our representatives to do something about it.”
Testa wanted to remind the community that there is currently no ban on abortion in Georgia, but many leaders have predicted a ban or limitation on abortion is on its way in the state.
Georgia’s “heartbeat bill,” or House Bill 481, passed in 2019 before it was blocked by a lawsuit. If the courts allow it to move forward, it would criminalize most abortions after about six weeks into pregnancy — before most women know they are pregnant.
Testa said it is important for citizens to show up to their local elections, which she said are often overlooked by the community.
“We [need] representatives that are progressive and will help fight for our rights,” Testa said. “[And we need to] put them in office not just federally, not just statewide, but also locally so that those senators and House members can pass bills that are pro-choice. And we need to have a governor in office that, when those bills come to their desk, they can [pass] them.”
Demanding reproductive rights
Students for 75 ended the march at Alpharetta City Hall where they continued to stand outside and hold up signs with fellow protestors for those shopping and spending time in downtown Alpharetta to see.
They invited eight different student speakers, along with Christian, to share their reasons for supporting reproductive rights to the crowd.
The speakers included Komal Nambiar with Gen Z for Change, Ashleigh Ewald with College Democrats of Georgia and Emma Marzullo, a Forsyth Central High School graduate.
While they each shared stories, all of the speakers emphasized the need for students to get out and vote in November to ensure pro-choice politicians will be in office next year, and they ended the demonstration by handing out information of how to get involved in their student political organizations.
“In America’s current political climate, there is no such thing as a right,” Christian said. “Rights are not rights if someone can just arbitrarily take them away from you. What we suddenly have is a bill of privileges. A bill of privileges that can be taken away from us at the drop of a hat at the whim of the most determined based on ideology and not justice.
“Collectively, we have the power to turn that bill of privileges back into the rights that we demand and that we are guaranteed because we live here,” he said.