More than 200 people marched through Fort Mill on Thursday afternoon in protest of laws that would restrict abortion in South Carolina.
Police directed traffic as it backed up along the march route from Elisha Park up North White Street, up Main Street and back along Clebourne Street toward the park. The crowd on a sweltering afternoon appeared to be mostly women and mostly young, a product of the contact lists of a group of teen organizers.
There weren’t any counter demonstrations Thursday, or groups representing the opposite side of the abortion debate. There were drivers along the march route who offered visible indications in favor of the march, and those who offered the opposite.
“Our generation in general is very outspoken,” said organizer Amber Pesce, 18. “We grew up seeing Trump’s presidency, so we were just raised in a generation that makes us very outspoken and ready to fight for our rights.”
The group of recent grads and students at Fort Mill area high schools organized after news of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“It being overturned completely restricted women’s rights to our bodies,” said Anisha Dasari, 17.
Justice Salgado, 17, is a recent Nation Ford High School graduate along with Pesce and Dasari.
“There was a major outrage after the Supreme Court overruling, so as a group we said we are not going to stand for this and we’re going to organize something to make sure our voices can be heard,” Salgado said. “And we’re here to make a change so that everyone with a uterus has the capability to get a safe and accessible abortion in South Carolina.”
Keisha Hensley came from Rock Hill to march on Thursday.
“We’re moving backwards,” Hensley said. “We’re not moving forward. I am a woman. I have a teenage daughter. It’s beyond just abortion.”
Hensley said she has reproductive issues that has her dependent on birth control for quality of life.
“The stress of knowing that I don’t have these options, that I don’t have the choice over my body, it’s just unacceptable,” Hensley said. “And so I’m here for myself and all the young women, all men out here — the allies — who support us. Because it’s not right.”
Hensley saw promise in how the march came to be, organized by some people not yet old enough to vote.
“They’re the future,” Hensley said.
Katie Crosby was one of several current or past political candidates at the march. Crosby, from Indian Land, is in the Nov. 8 election for S.C. House Dist. 44 against Mike Neese and Aaron McKinney. A campaign staffer invited Crosby to the event in Fort Mill.
“They’re going to affect me but even more so they’re going to affect the poorest people in South Carolina,” Crosby said of South Carolina laws restricting abortion. “Not just women. We’re talking about anybody who can give birth, and their families. Abortion means healthy families. Abortion saves lives.”
Crosby is optimistic an event organized by teens could draw such a crowd, and also for the variety of people present.
“We’ve got old people, young people, men, women, everybody,” Crosby said.
Some organizers also are part of political campaigns aimed at changing laws in South Carolina by replacing the legislators in position to make them. Voting registration forms were on hand Thursday. That next step, Dasari said, is an important one after the march.
“Voting,” Dasari said. “Voting is very important now.”
While the crowd on Thursday was all but in unison on abortion laws, organizers understand not everyone is.
“As someone who grew up Christian and used to be pro-life for many years, I think the biggest thing that flipped my view was that even if I believe that I would not want to get an abortion, if I believe that life starts at conception, that’s my belief, and I can’t push that on anyone else,” Pesce said. “It’s still your body and your choice.”
Dasari has similar experience growing up in a conservative family.
“It is quite difficult to understand the other side’s opinion,” Dasari said. “But it’s more important to be open-minded about things and understand where they’re coming from but at the same time try to educate them on our side as well.”
Organizers know abortion is a contentious issue and not everyone will agree.
“Some people just can’t be swayed,” Dasari said, “and that’s just how it’s going to be.”