Over 1,000 join 'Bans Off Our Bodies' protest in Nashville supporting abortion rights

Rachel Wegner Molly Davis
Nashville Tennessean
  • Demonstrators gathered at Legislative Plaza in support of abortion rights Saturday
  • The crowd later marched to the federal courthouse on Church Street
  • A leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion against Roe v. Wade has sparked nationwide protests

Well over 1,000 protesters rallied at Legislative Plaza in Nashville and marched to the federal courthouse on Church Street in support of abortion rights Saturday. 

The protest was in conjunction with other "Bans Off Our Bodies" rallies organized by Planned Parenthood after a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion. The document, published by Politico on May 3 and later verified, showed the court is on the verge of overturning the landmark 1973 case of Roe v. Wade that established a constitutional right to abortion.

WHAT TO KNOW:What happens in Tennessee if Roe v. Wade is overturned? Here's a guide

REACTIONS TO DRAFT OPINION:How Tennesseans are reacting to the US Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade

It has since sparked protests and fierce debate nationwide. Protests were also set for Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga on Saturday, along with dozens of other cities across the United States.

'Being able to choose is everything'

The crowd filtered into Legislative Plaza around noon under the blazing Tennessee sun, with temperatures reaching into the mid-80s. Several speakers shared about what access to abortion and fighting for their rights meant to them. 

Julie Edwards of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi started the rally off by leading the crowd in a chant of “bans off our bodies."

A small group of counter-protesters at the back of the crowd called out on megaphones as the rally leaders sang songs, shared stories and led chants.

A 1,000 people gathered in Legislative Plaza in Nashville on Saturday for the "Bans Off Our Bodies" protest and later marched to the federal courthouse on Church Street.

Erin Trentes and her husband, John Trentes, sat at the top of the steps of the War Memorial building. She said it was her first-ever protest. She came because she is scared more restrictions will follow if Roe v. Wade is overturned. She doesn’t have children of her own because of multiple miscarriages but said reproductive decisions should be up to a woman and her family.

“It’s everything,” Erin Trentes said through tears. “Being able to choose is everything.”

Amy Griffith and her daughter Leah Griffith, both from Nashville, said they felt compelled to come out in light of the leaked draft opinion. Amy Griffith said she is a Christian but does not believe abortion should be outlawed.

“We are not a theocracy,” she said, echoing the sign she was carrying.

Leah Griffith said public support is largely in favor of keeping abortion legal, pointing to recent polls that showed 60-70% of Americans support it. She also said she’s afraid that states banning abortion will only make it unsafe, especially for people without the resources to access it elsewhere.

From left, Dr. Kenji Tanaka, Dr. Nina Hill, Dr. Jackie Krevitz and Dr. Ruth Wang hold signs in front of the federal courthouse on Church Street in downtown Nashville on Saturday. The three were part of the "Bans Off Our Bodies" protest, which joined dozens of other rallies like it nationwide.

“It’s going to happen regardless of if it’s legal,” Leah Griffith said.

The march kicked off around 1:15 p.m. as protesters danced, chanted and cheered their way to the steps of the federal courthouse roughly a quarter-mile away. The Metro Nashville Police Department was on hand to direct vehicles and foot traffic and blocked off the streets immediately surrounding the courthouse.

Organizers led chants and allowed time for demonstrators to come forward and share their personal stories. The crowd was largely dispersed by 2:15 p.m.

Find reporter Rachel Wegner at rawegner@tennessean.com or on Twitter @rachelannwegner.

Find Molly Davis at MDavis2@gannett.com or on Twitter at @MollyM_Davis.