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Abortion-rights supporters to rally in Downtown Memphis

Pro-Choice protesters gather at Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama, after the March For Reproductive Freedom on May 19, 2019. - The state of Alabama passed a near-total abortian ban on May 14, 2019, one of the nation's most restrictive bans on abortions in decades. (Photo by Seth HERALD / AFP) (Photo credit should read SETH HERALD/AFP/Getty Images)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Supporters of abortion rights are set to rally in Downtown Memphis as part of a national campaign responding to states that have passed new abortion restrictions.

The free public event is set for noon Tuesday at the Civic Plaza at 167 North Main Street.

More than 50 organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice America — are participating in #StopTheBans protests nationwide.

“Across the country, we are seeing a new wave of extreme bans on abortion, representing an all-out assault on reproductive freedom and abortion access,” said event organizers. “Criminalizing abortion care will have a disproportionate impact on low-income women and women of color, who already face significant barriers to accessing abortion care.”

Last week, Alabama enacted the strictest abortion law in the country. It would make abortion illegal in virtually all cases, including cases of rape and incest.

The new law says doctors who perform an abortion could face up to 99 years in prison — similar to punishment for rapists and murderers.

But due to legal challenges, it could be years before Alabama’s law takes effect — if it ever does at all.

Georgia is one of the latest states to enact a so-called “heartbeat law,” meaning virtually all abortions are illegal once a heartbeat is detected.

That can be as early as six weeks, which is before an embryo becomes a fetus, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Several states already have similar laws, including Mississippi and Ohio. And more states, including Missouri and Louisiana, could enact “heartbeat bills.”

Abortion rights activists say these kinds of restrictive laws are an attack on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the US.

“We will show up to speak out and fight back against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe and punish women,” organizers of Tuesday’s protests said.

“Politicians shouldn’t be making decisions best left to women, their families, and their doctors.”

Incidentally, the National Right to Life — the largest anti-abortion organization in the country — said it is fighting a different kind of national wave.

“We bet you are frustrated. You are frustrated with the extreme pro-abortion agenda that seems to be taking over our country,” Right to Life tweeted.

It called for supporters to attend its national convention in July.

Perhaps the one thing both sides of the debate can agree on is whether new abortion restrictions are meant to challenge Roe v. Wade.

The Alabama legislation was actually designed specifically to go to the Supreme Court and challenge Roe v. Wade, said Eric Johnston, president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition. The coalition helped draft the Alabama bill.

But it can take years for the Supreme Court to hear a case, if it chooses to hear the case at all. The nation’s highest court decides which cases it wants to take.

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