RALEIGH – Protesters rallied for abortion rights at the 10th Moral Monday outside the North Carolina General Assembly, and inside, 64 people were arrested. This coming less than a week after House Bill 695, which calls for tighter abortion laws, pushed through the state Senate in less than 24 hours with little public notice.
The bill would require abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, a move abortion-rights advocates say is designed to shut down providers. Only one clinic in the entire state currently meets those standards.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was one of more than a thousand who attended this week’s rally.
“It’s really shocking how this General Assembly feels that they can just railroad any respect for democratic process. They haven’t provided people even with the most basic form of notice,” Kleinschmidt said.
Kleinschmidt said he does not support the way in which House Bill 695 was tacked on to another bill and hastily passed in the Senate.
“It makes for a general outrage for the lack of respect for the people of North Carolina, accompanied by a whole array of issues,” he said.
Janet Colm, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, was among those arrested. Since the first Moral Monday in late April, more than 700 people have been arrested in the weekly protests against the legislation of the Republican-led General Assembly.
“These attacks on women’s health are dangerous and they are deeply unpopular. That’s why these politicians continue to sneak them in with special sessions, with midnight votes, and without witnesses. The North Carolina General Assembly has tried to bully, shame and dismiss North Carolina women and their families this entire session,” said Mellissa Reed of Planned Parenthood.
Christine Lang, a mom from Chatham County, said the bill was the last straw for her.
“The way they slid those abortion issues through infuriates me, not only for myself but for my daughter,” Lang said.
UNC Senior Carey Hanlin was one of many male students from Chapel Hill who attended the rally in support of women’s reproductive rights.
“Being a feminist and having a lot of female friends who are pro-choice and believe in reproductive rights brought me here. We don’t believe that it is the job of our legislature to be focused on this. Right now, there are bigger issues like the unemployment rate and we’re only going to make it worse now that the Legislature has cut unemployment benefits. That’s what really got me bothered and fired up and ready to go right now,” Hanlin said.
Junior Patrick Mateer came out to his second Moral Monday in support of his friends and his mother, and all of who could be affected by abortion restrictions.
“It’s not just a woman’s issue. We [males] can be allies. If I think a bill is wrong, though it doesn’t affect me, I still feel I should come out and try to change the Legislature’s opinion.” Mateer said.
This Moral Monday also saw a lot of newcomers, including UNC Alum Eric Martin.
“I am in agreement with the other protesters that legislation is infringing on a lot of civil liberties and destroying a lot of programs that are beneficial,” Martin said.
NAACP State chapter president and protest leader Reverend William Barber announced that next Monday’s rally will feature all female speakers. On Monday, July 22, the demonstration will focus on voting rights, education, and criminal justice. Barber also said that on August 28, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the NAACP will hold rallies in each of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional Districts.