NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Lunch time brought hundreds of pro-choice activists to a protest in the New Orleans central business district on Wednesday. They attacked anti-abortion legislation in Louisiana and recently enacted abortion restrictions in some other states.
At one point, the protesters blocked Poydras Street at Saint Charles Avenue.
"Please disperse the street. This is your first warning,” said a police officer who had pulled his marked SUV up to the intersection.
After a few warnings from police officers the protesters cleared the street.
Earlier they had overwhelmed a sidewalk at the intersection and blasted what they call an assault on women’s rights.
"When we restrict people from accessing abortion legally, we're not stopping abortion,” said Steffani Bangel, of the New Orleans Abortion Fund.
Protesters said women have a right to choose whether to end a pregnancy.
"I’m here to protect a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and interrupt the interference of that right that we have as women,” said April Goltz.
Men turned out in large numbers for the rally, as well.
"A rape exception or an exception in instances of incest should be allowed in abortion law,” said John Ellis.
A mother brought her adult son to the event.
"I'm happy to be here with my son and my son from a different mother to say that women's bodies are women's bodies and nobody gets to say what we do with our bodies, not any kind of legislator and that's why my sign says the 1950s are calling and they're asking for their politicians back,” said Sallie Davis.
Many protesters take issue with a state Senate-passed bill that awaits final approval by the House, that would outlaw abortions in Louisiana when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Also, the rally happened a day after the Senate overwhelmingly approved a House-passed bill that would have voters statewide decide whether to put language in the constitution that says no one has a right to an abortion in the state.
The female sponsor of the proposed constitutional amendment defends her stance.
"What we’ve done in Louisiana over the last few years is we’ve authored legislation that is constitutional, see Roe v. Wade never said that Louisiana couldn’t legislate in the area of abortion, it just said abortion was legal, but they’ve upheld a number of restrictions across this nation and so we hope that one day Roe v. Wade is overturned,” said Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.
In addition to abortion rights, protesters also raised concerns about other social issues.
"Our demands include reforming and ending the criminal justice system that over-penalizes people of color in our state, our demands include providing care and support for people who choose to have families,” said Bangel.
Some said pro-life advocates are disingenuous.
"And if you’re really pro-life how about Medicare for all so we can all get health insurance and take care of our health?” Davis said.
Before the proposed constitutional amendment can be placed on the October ballot, it must return to the House for concurrence on a language change made by the Senate this week.