Hattiesburg participates in national ‘Stop the Ban’ movement

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Alyssa Bass

The Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates participated in a ‘Stop the Ban’ rally on Tuesday, May 21, as a part of a nationwide movement protesting recent abortion legislation.

According to New York Magazine, the “heartbeat bill” restricts access to abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks. Even incest and rape victims will not be able to get abortions. This bill will go into effect as soon as July 2019 for some states.

Mississippi legislators went to a federal hearing on Tuesday to discuss this bill.

According to CNN, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves “expressed anger at times. . . He pointed out that six months ago he struck down a 15-week ban and the legislature responded with an even more restrictive law, suggesting the new law “smacks of defiance” to the court.” Reeves concluded that he would take the case under advisement.

Tyler Harden, field organizer for the Southeast Advocates, orchestrated the event.

“We wanted to organize something for the people here. There are usually rallies in Jackson or the Coast, so you’ll have to hop in a car and go,” Harden said. “I just wanted to show appreciation and respect for all that people do here [in Hattiesburg].” Harden has worked with Planned Parenthood for a year.

“It’s a human rights issue, and you can tell by who showed up and who honked while passing by,” Kyrié, who was taking photos for Mississippi Sexual Health Education Reform, said.  “Different age groups, genders, and ethnicities showed up to support ‘Stop the Bans.’”

Besides the Planned Parenthood volunteers, other groups were represented, such as the LGBTQ+ friendly Spectrum Center and the Pinebelt chapter of the League of Women Voters. A majority of the attendee population was Southern Miss students.

“We have a great student population here,” Harden said. “We convinced a Republican representative to vote with us on this issue.”

When asked who she was referencing, Harden said represenative of district 102 Missy McGee. McGee, whose district includes both Forrest and Lamar Counties, said she did not consider herself voting “with” Planned Parenthood.

“I’ve never spoken to anyone with planned parenthood,” McGee said through email. “They have never reached out to me. Their position had no bearing on my vote whatsoever.”

During the event, participants were encouraged to speak to the crowd. One of the speakers was Mickie Stratos, treasurer of the Spectrum Center. Stratos identifies as they/them and emphasized the gender gap in the abortion argument.

“We use a lot of women-first language. We say ‘women only’ and ‘women’s right to choose,’” Stratos said. “While that is in good faith and good spirit, we tend to forget that excludes other folks: trans men, non-binary people, intersex people. Anyone who does not identify as a woman but still has a uterus.”

Stratos was not the only attendee to acknowledge that minorities are often overlooked in the abortion debate. Harden cited statistics to prove her case. One of these is the fact that the abortion rate for black women is four times more likely than that for white women.

Near the conclusion of the rally, Harden asked the crowd: “What do you see that we all have in common?” Harden received a variety of answers: few minorities, few men, mostly women and different ages.

If seeking reproductive resources, the Hattiesburg Planned Parenthood health clinic is located at 214 South 27th Avenue. The Spectrum Center also provides support for both the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike at 210 South 25th Avenue. Both organizations have active Facebook accounts and websites.

Olivia Saldana and Caleb McCluskey contributed to this report