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Arkansas Reproductive Rights Activists Gear Up for Rally

Teddy Wilson

With the state legislature set to convene in February, the Arkansas Rally for Reproductive Justice is meant to send the message that activists have not forgotten about the legislative attacks on reproductive rights last year.

Reproductive rights activists are preparing for the fourth annual Arkansas Rally for Reproductive Justice on Saturday. With the Arkansas legislature set to convene in February, this year’s rally is meant to send the message that activists have not forgotten about the legislative attacks on reproductive rights last year.

During 2013, there were several legislative attempts to restrict reproductive rights in the state. In March, a ban on telemedicine abortions was introduced, and in April the legislature attempted to defund Planned Parenthood. The legislature also passed a 12-week ban on abortion that was blocked by a federal court. These moves led to protests at the capitol that event organizer Claudia Reynolds-LeBlanc told Rewire was “not just a flash in the pan, but rather the beginning of showing up in all our numbers to guard our civil liberties.”

The rally organizers are enthusiastic about the level of involvement and the projected several-hundred-person turnout for the rally. “Between what happened in the 2013 Arkansas legislative session and what has happened in other states, a lot of brand new people have gotten involved,” said Ali Taylor, rally chair for the Arkansas Coalition for Reproductive Justice (ACRJ), the group organizing the action. “A lot of people didn’t think [reproductive rights] was an issue anymore.”

In addition to pushing back against restrictions on abortion access, Taylor said that the ACRJ is focused on improving the state of reproductive health care and sex education. Arkansas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, and, as she explained, “we do not have any type of state-mandated sex education for any grade level.” Republican lawmakers seemed intent on keeping it that way in 2013.

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Arkansas also has high sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, and Taylor says the lack of education is a contributing factor. “There isn’t a lot of education for how to protect yourself from pregnancy and STIs,” she said.

The rally will take place on the steps of the state capitol at 1 p.m. Saturday. Speakers will include University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor and social justice activist Adjoa Aiyetoro, state Rep. Fred Love (D-Little Rock), and Holly Dickson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas.

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