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Pro-life marchers head out to celebrate end of Roe, pro-choice advocates waited for them outside

Hundreds marched in Knoxville to celebrate the end of Roe v. Wade, but pro-choice advocates awaited outside to voice their stance.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The 'March for Life 2023' started at the Knoxville Convention Center Ballroom. The event began with speeches from Knox County Mayor Glen Jacobs and County Commissioner Rhonda Lee.

Inside the convention center, the group clapped and cheered as they all celebrated Sanctity for Human Life Day and the end of Roe v. Wade. 

But outside, a pro-choice group sang out loud, "My body, my choice."

This is one of the biggest conflicts in the nation and like an opaque invisible veil, it spreads out really strong opinions.

"Life is important in life matters from the beginning stages of life to the end of life," Monica Irvine from the board of TN Right to Life Knoxville chapter said. 

Linda Sharp, whose pro-choice, disagreed. She held a megaphone out in the street with her team gathered around her and stood by her own beliefs. 

"My doctor decides that and my doctor feels that it is not a human being at the moment of conception," Sharp said. 

By the time pro-life marchers headed out, pro-choice caught up with them and started tailing their march on Cumberland downtown. 

This is an annual march for Right to Life. Every year they would walk out to protest against Roe v. Wade's decision. It was about 50 years ago when the Supreme Court decided to make a law giving the right to abortion. 

Then last year the Supreme Court ruled to leave that choice up to individual states. For pro-lifers, this sparked a certain emotional gratification, according to Irvine.

"It was a very emotional day for most of us pro-life people," she said. 

For people who support abortion access, it was quite different. 

"It was a crushing moment," Sharp said. 

Credit: Chrissa Loukas

In Tennessee, almost all abortions are illegal. About half a year ago when abortion was banned from the state, unless for medical reasons, this was one more subject up to the debate. 

"A doctor and his patient have the right in Tennessee to determine if the pregnancy needs to be ended to save the life of the mother," Irvine said. 

Yet, the provision of the Heartbeat Bill says the physician has to certify in writing about the decision to perform an abortion and that doctor could face a possible felony. 

"Doctors are saying openly that they are afraid right now," Sharp said. "That the laws are so ambiguous right now that they are afraid to help women who are in need."

The Right to Life organizers said this is the last time they will walk on this date. From now on they plan to meet on June 24, the anniversary of the Supreme Court overturning Roe.

And the conflict will go on. 

For pro-life groups, Irvine said the focus is now heading toward medications and educating women from younger ages.

"We are so alarmed about the number of abortions that are taking place via access to the abortion pill through the mail," Irvine said.  

For pro-choice Sharp, she said her concern is Tennessee's foster care system and whether there's room for the current situation. She's also concerned about having someone else decide about her own body. 

"You can't decide about somebody else's body," Sharp said. 

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