VALDOSTA – “What do we want? Choice. When do we want it? Always.”
Protestors shouted this chant during a march opposing the “heartbeat" law Saturday at the historic Lowndes County Courthouse.
Signs in hand, dozens of men and women walked around the courthouse shouting “My body, my choice. Their body, their choice” and “Hey, hey. Ho, Ho. Your backwards ways have got to go.”
The Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act bans abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy or when a heartbeat can be detected.
The law outlines that doctors who perform an abortion – and potentially women who get an abortion – could face felony charges. It is set to take effect next year.
Laura Register, event speaker and vice chair Georgia WIN List, said a woman is carrying an “embryo” and not a “baby” at six weeks.
Wife of a physician, Register said there could be a “real issue” if a doctor constantly fears imprisonment.
Access to affordable health care, contraceptives and education would make a more positive impact on women by reducing abortions more than 40 percent, she said.
The women who would be most affected by the law are those living in poverty, Register said.
Juliana Garcia, statewide Georgia organizer for Indivisible Georgia, said she believes people will lose their lives due to the “heartbeat” law. She encouraged people to vote during a brief speech.
“It’s more important than ever. People’s lives are really at stake, and it’s heartbreaking to think how many people are going to die because of this,” she said. “We need to fight this every inch of the way because people are going to die.”
Staci Fox is the president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Southeast, which covers Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
Fox vowed legislators’ stance on the bill will affect the next voting session.
“When we were in legislative session, our politicians didn’t listen to the voters. They didn’t listen to the 300 business community leaders that came out in opposition of this bill. They didn’t listen to the Medical Association of Georgia that came out against this bill,” she said.
“Unfortunately, they’re going to have to listen next fall in the voting booth when we come in for their seats because now we’re going to hold them all accountable for taking this vote against women.”
She announced that a lawsuit will soon be filed against Gov. Brian Kemp and the state.
The announcement comes two weeks after a lawsuit was filed against the state of Alabama, one of five states where similar laws have been passed, Fox said.
“Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Georgia and some other partners will file a lawsuit against Gov. Kemp and the State of Georgia to make sure that this law never takes effect,” she said.
Some protestors believe the law will interfere with women and their doctors.
“These are decisions that patients and their doctors should be making,” Fox said. “This is a fight over autonomy that we’ve been having for decades, and right now, it’s about abortion.”
One of a few male supporters Saturday, Glenn Ritchie said he attended the rally because he believes in equality and a woman’s right to choose.
He called himself an “ally” of women’s rights.
“I’m deeply concerned about some of the new laws being passed and some of the ramifications of those laws,” Ritchie said. “I find the laws that they’re passing reprehensible.”
Men should deem laws important even if they aren’t directly impacted, he said.
Similar protests have taken place in Atlanta, Savannah and other cities outside of Georgia.