50th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade inspires weekend of protests across Florida

This weekend kicked off marches and rallies across the country for supporters on both sides of women’s reproductive rights debate as Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. After the ruling was overturned in the summer of 2022, the issue was sent back to the states by the U.S. Supreme Court, but some states have either strengthened rights or put in place partial or total bans

Now, supporters on both sides are rallying to make their voices heard. In Florida, abortion is illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion rights supporters said there’s a lot at stake now, and they will rally at events across Florida. In St. Pete, supporters will be at the corner of Central Avenue and Third Street Sunday afternoon to let people know the fight in Florida isn’t over. Amy Weintraub will be among those attending the rally in support of women’s reproductive rights in downtown St. Pete.

"This is an annual event that we’ve had for years and it pre-dates me moving here in 2015. Pinellas Now and the National Organization for Women have been holding this visibility event on the same corner for decades," said Weintraub, the reproductive rights program director at Progress Florida. "It’s always been like a tribute to the Roe v. Wade anniversary."

It’s a tribute that takes on a different meaning this year after Roe’s reversal, sparking Florida lawmakers to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

"I have a friend who is a provider, a specialist in fetal medicine in Tampa and she has been devastated by this and I’ve talked with her about it," said Weintraub.

Planned Parenthood Florida said the demand jumped after the restrictions. Providers are pulling double duty, caring not just for Floridians.

"We are seeing so many people from surrounding states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, flocking to Florida because at least we have some access, in fact. Planned Parenthood health centers, we've seen quadruple the number of patients from other states," said Laura Goodhue, the executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

So they expanded hours at clinics and hired new doctors.

"We are really kind of we're stretched thin, but we're trying to meet this enormous need," said Goodhue.

But there’s a limit.

"Planned Parenthood health centers are having to turn away people who are past 15 weeks to other states so that they're going to places like North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania," said Goodhue.

Pro-life supporters nationwide call Roe’s reversal a victory, walking in the March for Life event in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

"The calls for life, to support life, didn't end with the court decision last year. There is just so much more to do," said Meyleen Jeffers, a South Carolina pro-life supporter who attended the D.C. event.

Pro-choice supporters said women’s rights are still under threat, so their work is not over either.

"No matter what laws pass or what the Supreme Court decides, people are still going to need to end pregnancies for a wide variety of reasons," said Weintraub.

There are marches and rallies for the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade happening throughout the weekend nationwide, with about 19 events in Florida. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to speak at the event in Tallahassee Sunday.