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Democratic candidates, activists rally for abortion rights in downtown Gainesville
05162022 protest 2
Democratic candidates for office and activists gather May 15, 2022, outside the federal courthouse in Gainesville to protest the Supreme Court's draft decision that would overturn abortion protections from Roe v. Wade. - photo by Conner Evans

Democratic political candidates and a few dozen activists rallied Sunday, May 15, against a recently leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would overturn abortion protections from Roe v. Wade.

About 30 gathered behind the Sidney O. Smith Jr. federal courthouse along Spring Street with signs reading, “Protect Roe v. Wade,” “Productive rights are human rights” and “Hands off my uterus.” Some cars passing by to exit downtown honked in support as the crowd chanted “My body, my choice.” 

Democrat Laura Colaninno, who is running for Hall County Board of Commissioners District 1, helped organize the protest following the release of the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision earlier this month, which would leave laws regarding abortion rights up to the states. The decision is not final, but the draft shows a 5-3 majority. If the decision went into effect, Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” would likely become law, allowing women to get an abortion only until the heartbeat can be detected, usually near the six week mark of pregnancy, with some exceptions. 

“When I was 16, you could not get an abortion,” Colaninno said. “But if you were wealthy, you went to Fort Lauderdale and took a ‘cruise.’ … But the poor people were using coat hangers and dying, and that’s why we can’t go back.” 

If Republicans cared about fetus’s lives, Colaninno said, they would offer prenatal care for mothers, child care and other services pre- and post-birth. “We are pro-life,” she said. “We want those pregnant women — we want them taken care of. We want to give them medical care.”

Republican candidates have previously indicated their support for the draft decision, including state Sen. Butch Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor.

“My goal is to protect life,” Miller told The Times shortly after the draft was leaked. “If the court goes the way the leak suggests, we’ll have Joe Biden out of the way and we can do more in Georgia to protect life.” 

Kim Floria, Democratic candidate for state House District 30, and Mike Ford, chair of the Hall County Democratic Party and a candidate for the 9th Congressional District, also spoke to the crowd Sunday. 

Some in attendance said they drove from surrounding areas including Dawson, White and Jackson counties. 

Suzanne Carter said she drove an hour and a half from Towns County to come to the rally. 

Devin Pandy, a Democratic candidate for state House District 29, read a poem, which advocated for greater health care protections for women and infants and criticized the Republican Party as unsupportive of young children. Pandy ran for mayor of Gainesville in the fall and ran for the 9th Congressional District in 2020. 

“When it comes to wearing a mask or getting a vaccine, it’s their body, their choice,” Pandy said, criticizing Republicans’ rhetoric. “But when it comes to a woman continuing pregnancy, it’s her body, their choice. I say when it comes to a woman’s freedom, they have no choice, and when it comes to women’s bodies, I just hear a woman’s voice.”

05162022 PROTEST
Democratic candidates for office and activists gather May 15, 2022, outside the federal courthouse in Gainesville to protest the Supreme Court's draft decision that would overturn abortion protections from Roe v. Wade. - photo by Conner Evans