WEST PALM BEACH — The crowd of about 1,200 people who gathered at the Meyer Amphitheater for the area’s Bans Off Our Bodies rally Saturday came in groups three strong generations, grandparents and parents, men and women and babies.
They were there for more than 400 rallies across the nation, at least 20 across Florida, brought together by the threat revealed in the recent leak of a Supreme Court draft decision that would reverse the Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing medical abortions almost 50 years ago.
Some said they were there to fight for a right they had known all their lives, some astonished, they said to be fighting again.
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Liz Haber Zambrano gestured toward her infant daughter.
“I’m here because I’ve never had to live in a world without Roe v. Wade, and I don’t want that for her,” she said.
“I’m here for all the women in my family,” her husband Fabrizzio Zambrano said. “It’s the least I can do.”
The Zambranos were not alone.
“I’m here to inspire women from all over the world, especially from the Middle East, where I’m from, to stand up for their rights,” Ezgi Endam-Smith said.
“As a man of color in the United States,” Stefan Smith said, “It’s important to advocate for civil rights.”
How many people in the crowd, opening speaker Tara Pretends Eagle Weber asked, were we 60 years old, or older?
Across the field facing the stage hands waved.
“We knew people who had illegal abortions,” said Kathy Maxted, there with her husband.
“Kathy and I, we’ve done this,” John Maxted said. “It’s like, ‘What?’”
“I had two friends who died back in the day,” said Renae Van Wagner, who is 69. “My mom also went through an illegal abortion. We were lucky.”
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Later, Van Wagner said, she worked for Child Protective Services in New Jersey. “I saw children, 8, 9, 10, who wouldn’t have lived through a pregnancy. I had a father who told me his daughter could n’t have an abortion, because she was his kid.
Van Wagner herself had an abortion when it was legal, she said. “I was working, single with a kid. It was the best thing.”
Amber Schlick brought her infant son, Augustine. “I take the responsibility very seriously of raising a young man in our society. I believe women can’t flourish if they don’t have autonomy over their body. It’s a health-care issue, not a political issue.”
Opposition was sparse, by police estimate no more than 50 people in total, eight along Flagler Drive with signs opposing abortion rights.
“I wasn’t worried,” rally security coordinator Katrice Bowe said. The diffusion of rallies across the area facilitated crowd control, she said.
Speakers included state Sen. Lori Berman, state Rep. Jervonte Edmonds and US Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.
Live music continued as the crowd dispersed, with small groups staying.
“I’m here because I personally had an abortion,” Joanne Goldman, 58, said. She was a child when abortion was illegal, she said, and she remembers struggling to understand why.
“I’m here because how dare you tell me what I have a right to do?”