‘I pray for your soul.’ A day after decision, crowds shout at Charlotte abortion clinic

·5 min read

Roe v. Wade

Here's how the Supreme Court decision affects health care, politics, and more in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Less than 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, Saturday seemed like a normal morning outside a Charlotte abortion clinic, police and protesters said.

Supporters of abortion rights blew plastic horns and shook tambourines to drown out the amplified speakers of anti-abortion activists from Love Life who gathered on a nearby graveled lot.

By 9 a.m., a couple dozen abortion rights activists and clinic escorts stood outside at the clinic’s two entrances.

Tara Algieri of Charlotte has gone to the Latrobe Drive women’s clinic every Saturday for the past year. She said she’s there to protect clinic patients and their companions from judgment.

“There’s only so much you can do outside of voting,” Algieri told a Charlotte Observer reporter. “It’s the right decision for that patient. We need to be aware and protect each other.”

A clinic volunteer named Kerri, who didn’t want to give her last name but said she goes by Red, said that Saturday’s protest was no different than a typical Saturday, despite Friday’s Supreme Court ruling.

“This is the same thing we’ve been doing daily,” Kerri said while sitting in a blue camping chair on the sidewalk outside the clinic.

At 9:35 a.m., the anti-abortion activists began a walk around the block under overcast skies. As they passed the clinic, the crowds exchanged words and prayers but remained peaceful.

An anti abortion demonstrator and clinic escort argue at A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte on Saturday.
An anti abortion demonstrator and clinic escort argue at A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte on Saturday.

“I pray for your soul,” people shouted at others.

“Pray for the mothers, pray for the fathers,” a man said.

“You uphold the legacy of American slavery,” a woman shouted back.

“You’re in the wrong place,” another woman said.

Police broke up the heated exchange, though no physical confrontation happened.

Anti-abortion activist Flip Benham of Concord said he appears outside Charlotte’s three abortion clinics six days a week. For now, abortion still is legal in North Carolina, and many have said it could become a destination state for the procedure as restrictions are enacted in surrounding states.

“The battle is being won on the streets,” he said.

Standing by a pond and looking at the clinic, Benham could be heard saying, “God is pro-choice. Choose life.”

Other anti-abortion protesters said they were told not to speak to the media.

A woman extends a representation of a miniature baby in her hands outside of A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte on Saturday.
A woman extends a representation of a miniature baby in her hands outside of A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte on Saturday.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, one of six outside the clinic as usual Saturday, estimated about 200 people showed up Saturday morning. On a typical Saturday, anywhere from 50 to 200 or more gather there, police and abortion rights activists said.

Clinic escorts on Friday had begun reviewing safety protocols for any possible clashes of violence, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

Friday night, according to police estimates, about 300 demonstrators gathered outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in uptown to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. The Black Abortion Defense League organized the event.

RELATED: Hundreds in Charlotte protest Supreme Court ruling that overturns Roe v. Wade

On Twitter, police said they diverted traffic from the area of Friday’s rally ”without any injuries or major incidents.”

A homicide on West Trade Street was “completely unrelated to any demonstrations,” police said on Twitter.

Both camps felt that even though Saturday didn’t draw an unusually large crowd, Friday’s Supreme Court ruling would create an influx of women seeking abortions from other states.

In North Carolina, abortion remains legal and Gov. Roy Cooper vowed to veto abortion bans. However, that could change if Republicans gain a supermajority in the state’s General Assembly in November’s elections and override Cooper’s veto.

About 25,000 people get abortions in North Carolina each year, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

“The only thing that I expect to change is the patient influx from out of state,” said Kerri, the abortion-rights activist who’s been coming out to the Latrobe Drive clinic for two months. “We’re the only state around where women will be able to come.”

Anti-abortion activists gather at A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte on Saturday.
Anti-abortion activists gather at A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte on Saturday.

“This is a typical Saturday, but the one difference is we’re seeing more tourists, people coming from out of town to protest,” said Shannon Bauerle, executive director of Charlotte for Choice, a nonprofit abortion rights group.

Bauerle said she, too, expects the clinic to soon also get more patients from out of state.

“As states are banning abortions, we’re gonna start seeing more,” she said. “We’re not going to go anywhere. Abortion is still legal in North Carolina. Abortion is not going anywhere and neither are we.”

In their gravel lot, Love Life was sending the same message.

“We need 80 more volunteers so we can cover every hour at every abortion clinic,” said a woman from the stage, referring to the additional women she was expecting to come to North Carolina for abortions.

In 6-3 vote Friday, the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme court upheld a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks.

The justices then voted 5-4 to end the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling after 49 years.

Women’s legal access to abortions now will be decided by each state.