Women’s rights advocates rally at Tenn. state capitol about abortion, other issues

NASHVILLE (WATE) – A group of women’s rights advocates rallied in Nashville Tuesday morning, as the 2015 state legislative session was set to get underway later in the day.

Related story: State lawmakers to kick off 109th Tennessee General Assembly

The group said their purpose was to rally against bills they say take away privacy and health rights and to support bills that benefit Tennessee women.

The steps of the Capitol were filled with protestors. At one point, you could see and hear them banging on the doors to let lawmakers know they are watching them when it comes to women’s rights. The rally was all to make sure their voices were heard.

The group said they were there to let lawmakers know that they’re against any restrictive bills for abortion. Lizzie Rice, 28, is passionate about this subject and says she even volunteered for the “No on 1” campaign in Knoxville.

“To let the legislators know that we’re watching them and we’re going to keep a close eye on them and make sure they aren’t going to pass anything that restricts our rights any further,” she said.

A coalition of women’s advocacy groups, including State Senator Sara Kyle, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh, Reverend Marcia Free, Michele Johnson from the Tennessee Justice Center, Beth Foster from Mercy Junction, former Representative Gloria Johnson and others were involved.

Signs filled this rally for women’s rights, but not everyone in the crowd was a woman. You could see several men supporting this cause as the group marched to the Capitol.

“They are people whose issues matter to me personally because of my relationships with them, it’s really important that I stand out here with them,” said Josh Smyser.

At the same time the protesters beat drums, waved signs and listened to speeches outside the legislative office complex, lawmakers who oppose abortion rights held a press conference inside the building to announce their plans to enact similar laws struck down by a 2000 state Supreme Court decision.

So far, two bills have been filed that would create stricter regulations for women seeking abortions. One of them requires women to get an ultrasound before an abortion.

Former State Rep. Gloria Johnson says she expects similar bills to be filed in the coming days.

“If you look around at other states, some of the legislation that they’re seeing, I’m expecting to see a lot of that as well and to me, it’s just unacceptable,” said Johnson.

The group rallied from 10-11 a.m. Central time at the Tennessee Tower Plaza, 312 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, in Nashville. They then marched the block around Legislative Plaza before returning to the Tower Plaza.

Besides opposing bills having to deal with abortion regulations, the protestors said they support paid maternity leave, expanding medicaid and increasing minimum wage.

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