S.Ga. protesters push back on Roe decision

·3 min read

Jul. 11—VALDOSTA — Each corner of the intersection between North Ashley Street and East Central Avenue were adorned with speakers blasting Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," a song protest organizers Shelby Yates and Lenni Nees said they found fitting given current events.

The Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case June 24. Outraged by the ruling, several Valdosta residents began to mobilize efforts to make their voices heard.

The first North Ashley Street protest was organized by Christina Hansard and Jay Rogers just one week after the decision, attracting more than 200 responses to the event post on Facebook and more than 100 participants in the protest.

Saturday, July 9, Yates, a Valdosta State University graduate student studying social work, and Nees, a social worker, were leading the charge, deciding to take action after a few other protests took place.

"I knew there were some going on here but I never saw anything about them until they were already happening," Yates said.

"So I messaged them (Lenni) and went like 'Hey, why don't we organize a protest?'"

Nees said the Supreme Court decision is a 'betrayal' and Roe v. Wade case covered several tenets of health care. Having it overturned has more far-reaching implications than most people realize, she aded, such as the possibility of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision being used to justify the reversal of same-sex and interracial relationships.

"It's such a large issue that affects a multitude of people; it especially disproportionately affects people of color. It's going to affect privacy in the bedroom and the (general) right to privacy and other contraceptives. It's so important to get this reinstated. I was terrified when I heard the decision," Nees said.

"Even if you can go across state lines, there's still repercussions. People can't miss work for that long. There's so many reasons to keep it legalized. It's health care. It's that simple."

Yates said protests provide a platform to people most affected by the decision that may not be properly represented by government officials and other policymakers.

"We're predominantly in a Southern city and it's important to realize that not everyone thinks that way. Everybody shouldn't be grouped in with the 'Southern mentality' that says it (abortion) is wrong," she said.

"It's surprising when you put yourself out there to see how many people feel the same way. It's just taking the extra step to come out here and make that known."

Yates and Nees said they hope President Joe Biden can find a way to sign abortion rights into full federal law.

According to the Associated Press, Biden signed an executive order Friday to mitigate potential penalties abortion-seeking women may face, but they are still limited in their ability to safeguard access to abortion nationwide.

"I'm tired of the last 50 years of abortion being a voting point to get people to the polls as single-issue voters. The only reason it hasn't been made into law is because of numbers," Nees said.

"It's just not fair. There are no other laws prohibiting something for the opposite gender or any other gender, so there shouldn't be any against people with vaginas or uteruses."