Over 60 Pro-Choice Activists Arrested For Protesting North Carolina’s Radical Abortion Restrictions

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"Over 60 Pro-Choice Activists Arrested For Protesting North Carolina’s Radical Abortion Restrictions"

Janet Colm is arrested while protesting anti-abortion bills in North Carolina (Credit: Al Drago/Raleigh News & Observer)

Right before the July 4th holiday, North Carolina Republicans attached harsh abortion restrictions to an anti-Sharia bill in the hopes of sneaking them through at the last minute. But that move isn’t going unnoticed. Activists in the state, who have already been gathering at weekly “Moral Monday” rallies to protest North Carolina lawmakers’ increasingly far-right agenda, are standing up against the anti-abortion bill — and getting arrested for it.

North Carolina’s proposed legislation would restrict insurance coverage of abortion services, ban “sex-selective” abortions, impose unnecessary restrictions on medication abortions, and impose unnecessary new regulations on the state’s abortion clinics that would likely force most of them to close.

In protest, more than 2,000 people gathered at the state capitol on Monday night, the largest gathering since the regular Moral Monday rallies began. And 64 pink-clad women’s health activists expressed their opposition to the proposed abortion restrictions by engaging in an act of civil disobedience, refusing to leave the legislative chamber and ultimately getting arrested.

Janet Colm, the president of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, was one of those activists. As she explains in an op-ed, she decided to engage in civil disobedience in order to send a message to the anti-choice state legislators who insist on trying to restrict reproductive rights at every turn. “I want these politicians to see that with every attack, they are creating a fierce and ever stronger opposition,” Colm explained. “We’re making it impossible for politicians to ignore us, no matter how hard they try.”

A similar strategy in Texas, where grassroots activists have turned out by the thousands to protest a package of abortion restrictions being pushed through the GOP-controlled legislature, has captured national attention. Of course, Texas is hardly the only state currently attempting to enact stringent abortion restrictions. But women’s health activists in other states are emboldened by the activism — and the national media attention — that Texas has inspired, and they’re vowing to cast the same light on their own Republican lawmakers who are championing similar types of legislation.

“We’re part of something much bigger. A fuse has been lit that’s burning across this country,” Colm notes in her op-ed piece. “I see firsthand that these politicians are creating a new generation of activists who will take this state — and our country — back.”

The 63 reproductive rights activists who were handcuffed on Monday bring the total number of activists arrested for protesting the state’s GOP-controlled legislature up to more than 700. Nearly all of them have been charged with “disorderly conduct, trespassing and violating building rules” — although some critics point out that the protesters are merely exercising their constitutional right to assemble, and the legislature’s in-house police force is inappropriately exercising its power to arrest demonstrators.

On Tuesday, women’s health advocates once again turned out in full force. A North Carolina House committee concluded its hearings for the day without bringing the package of abortion restrictions to a vote. “Our work isn’t done, but women have put heat on the North Carolina General Assembly,” the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliate tweeted.

Update

According to a press release from Planned Parenthood, the national women’s health organization later learned that the House committee didn’t actually have the authority to vote on the bill on Tuesday afternoon because the Senate had not yet referred it to the House. Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina decried Tuesday’s public hearing as “political theater.” After the hearing concluded, the Senate fast-tracked the legislation to the House — and the House may now bring it up for a full floor vote at any time.

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