Featured photo: Dozens of people showed up to an abortion rights rally in downtown Greensboro on May 7 despite the rain. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

The rain couldn’t stop them.

Despite dropping temperatures and a steady shower, close to 50 people gathered at the corner of Market Street and Eugene Street in downtown Greensboro on Saturday evening to express their support for abortion rights.

“Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!” they chanted as cars drove past and the crowd huddled under a canopy of umbrellas.

The action was organized by members of GSO WHOA, the city’s working class and houseless organizing alliance, after an unprecedented leak of Supreme Court documents on Monday signaled the court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer. Greensboro Revolutionary Socialists, Winston-Salem DSA and Sunrise Greensboro also helped plan the event.

Billy Belcher, a longtime member of GSO WHOA spoke during the rally saying, “without abortion access, people will die. We gathered today because we want to stop this dangerous ruling class.”

Dozens of people showed up to an abortion rights rally in downtown Greensboro on May 7 despite the rain. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

And while alarming, Belcher’s statement is based on fact.

According to the World Health Organization, each year, 4.7-13.2 percent of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion and “restrictive abortion regulation can cause distress and stigma, and risk constituting a violation of human rights of women and girls, including the right to privacy and the right to non-discrimination and equality, while also imposing financial burdens on women and girls.”

A recent study by Duke University also estimated that banning abortion in the U.S. would lead to a 21 percent increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33 percent increase among Black women, who are disproportionately affected by limited abortion access.

One individual who spoke at the event said that when they were 17 years old, they were raped and they decided to have an abortion. Now, 18, they said that they didn’t know what their life would look like had they carried the pregnancy to term.

“I know I wasn’t ready for that,” they said. “I don’t know any 18-year-old that is…. I’m afraid.”

Brenton Boyce, a candidate for Guilford County District Attorney also spoke during the event. Boyce is running against incumbent Avery Crump in the primary election. They are both Democrats. If elected, Boyce said he would protect abortion rights in Guilford County. Learn more about the Guilford County District Attorney race here.

Brenton Boyce speaks at an abortion rights rally in Greensboro on May 7. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

“I do believe in choice and a person’s ability to have autonomy in their body and what they do,” Boyce said. “I will not prosecute health care providers…and I will not prosecute patients as well.”

GSO WHOA does not endorse Boyce.

Late Saturday night, incumbent Avery Crump responded to an email from TCB asking about her stance on abortion access.

“With the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, as a woman and mother I reaffirm my stance on a woman’s fundamental right to make decisions related to her reproductive health,” Crump said. “It is her choice. As an experienced prosecutor, I have worked closely with victims of rape and incest and witnessed the consequences of this violation on their bodies. I will not seek to prosecute or revictimize women and children for accessing needed medical care.”

Brenton Boyce and Avery Crump

Towards the end of the rally, Forrest Hinton, a longtime advocate for abortion rights in the area spoke about his experience volunteering as a clinic escort at the only abortion clinic in town.

“I have been physically assaulted,” he said. “The situation is worse than you think and the authorities are not there to protect us. This is our opportunity to stand up, fight back, whereever you are.”

In 2019, TCB published a comprehensive look at abortion access in the Triad that included scenes from A Woman’s Choice, the abortion clinic in Greensboro. On Saturday mornings, hundreds of anti-abortion activists gather next to the clinic to pray, chant and at times, harass patients and escorts.

In 2021, TCB outlined the bills that have been introduced in NC that would limit access to abortion.

And in December, TCB wrote a story that shared the personal stories of women who had abortions and their decision to take control of their bodies.

According to GSO WHOA members, the next event, which will be a fundraiser for the Carolina Abortion Fund, is scheduled for May 29 at Hester Park at 12 p.m. Follow the group on social media for updates.

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