JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Just one day after a federal judge allowed Tennessee’s six week “heartbeat” abortion plan to become law, hundreds took to downtown Johnson City to protest Wednesday night.
Organizers called the event the East Tennessee March for Abortion and Health Care.
One of the organizers, who did not wish to be named, said the protest is meant to show the voices of those supporting abortion rights in East Tennessee will not go silently.
“Abortion is health care. We want to separate the church and the state. We don’t believe they belong together when making laws. We want justice from our Supreme Court,” said the organizer.
The event drew hundreds of people to Founders Park, then organizers led a march to the ETSU Mini Dome and back.
“This is my first time coming to something like this, and I think the biggest thing is showing people that they are not alone,” said protester Brian Campbell.
With the heartbeat bill now in effect, Tennessee’s trigger law – the full ban on abortions – will start in less than a month.
Some voiced their fear for the future of women’s health.
“Women could lose their lives due to having pregnancies that are harmful to them,” said one protester. “It’s a preventative measure for mental health crises for women who are forced upon by a man.”
Along the march, some volunteers passed out water to protesters in the hot evening sun.
Loren Chapman said it was a different way he could support the cause.
“I’ve seen people turn around before the march reaches its destination if they run out of water, so we’re just trying to help out,” Chapman said.
The crowd was much bigger than anticipated for Chapman and organizers of the march.
Chapman said he had to make multiple trips to a nearby gas station to supply enough water.
“We were expecting maybe a hundred people,” Chapman said. “We can’t just let this sit on the books. You know, all these bad state laws all over the country that are just abusive of women. It’s unacceptable.”
The march was organized by young women and the crowd was made up mostly of people under 30.
“It’s our future we’re looking for. We’re the ones that are in need of reproductive rights for coming decades,” said the organizer.
Organizers said they plan to hold another march in Johnson City on the Fourth of July.