Organizers discuss VP visit, rallies ahead of Roe v. Wade anniversary

The Chair of the Leon County Democratic Party talks about the Vice President's visit to Tallahassee.
Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 11:25 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -Advocates all over the country marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe V Wade decision.

Here in the sunshine state, thousands are expected to attend events in support of abortion access.

Leon County Democratic Chair Ryan Ray said he believes that the visit from Vice President Kamala Harris signifies Florida will be a priority in 2024.

Sources tell WCTV, Harris will give remarks at The Moon around 12:10 p.m., and she’s expected to emphasize the importance of protecting what advocates said should be a woman’s right to choose.

Florida landed in the national spotlight last April when Governor Ron Desantis signed into law a 15-week abortion ban.

Just a few months later in June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe sending the matter back to the state level.

Ray believed the Vice President’s visit helped drive home that the fight will continue.

“I know that for me it’s a great source of hope and optimism for here in Florida and Tallahassee and to let everyone know that our fights here in Florida aren’t just here, they’re fights across the entire country and the black community and halls of power are definitely paying attention to what’s going on here,” said Leon County Democratic Chair Ryan Ray.

Ray added he believed the visit is just the start of new energy in the fight for women’s rights.

Board Chair of Florida Rising, Debbie Soto, reacts to VP Kamala Harris's arrival in Tallahassee.

Board Chair for Florida Rising, Debbie Soto said that Harris coming to the Capital City is imperative for women’s rights.

Soto said that Harris’s arrival to Tallahassee is a sweet surprise for the non-profit organization as they’ve put in a lot of time and effort to make today possible and her visit takes the organization to a whole other level.

“These are our bodies and they should be our choices. Otherwise, you take away the fundamental rights of people that need this. This is a healthcare crisis that they are imposing upon us,” said Board Chair of Florida Rising Debbie Soto.

WCTV reached out to Governor DeSantis’s office for comment on Harris’s decision to come to the Capital City and has not heard back.

Chauntee Howard with Melanin's mother meets's interview.

Chauntee Howard with the advocacy group, Melanin Mother’s Meet said that Harris’s visit served as a reminder of what she feels is at stake, protection for women’s healthcare.

Howard said black Floridians are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death and she said lower-income black Floridians have an even higher unintended pregnancy rate due to access and barriers in healthcare.

With Florida’s current abortion ban after 15 weeks, Howard said those who are already struggling are less likely to travel to seek alternatives.

She said having Harris in Tallahassee is huge for the black, brown and indigenous communities.

“Her arrival gives hope to organizations like my own where we are hoping the White House will continue to uplift the voices of marginalized communities where those impacts that relate to abortion bans are felt the most,” said Melanin Mother’s Meet advocate Chauntee Howard.

Howard said she is advocating for affordable healthcare, access to reproductive healthcare and bodily autonomy.

Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Alliance's interview.

Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood, Laura Goodhue said that people are traveling in from all over for this event.

She said abortion providers have become exhausted in the past year since Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court.

She said the number of patients seen in clinics across Florida has quadrupled.

Many of the patients are coming from out of state, in other places where the rules are stricter,

according to Goodhue.

I caught up with her on a bus full of other supporters on their way to Tallahassee Saturday night, where she said change is crucial.

“We are fighting for our lives. People who can get pregnant, people who need abortion care and we’re talking about millions of people that need care,” Executive Director for Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Laura Goodhue.

Goodhue said she expects close to 1,000 people to gather and hear remarks from Harris and the National President of Planned Parenthood.