Thousands of abortion-rights supporters rallied across the United States on Saturday, angered by the prospect that the Supreme Court could soon overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nationwide half a century ago.
The protests kicked off what organizers predict will be a “summer of rage” sparked by the release on May 2 of a draft notice showing the court’s conservative majority ready to overturn the 1973 ruling that established a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy.
The court’s final ruling, which could return the power to ban abortion to state legislatures, is expected in June. About half of the 50 states are on the verge of banning or severely restricting abortion almost immediately if Roe is invalidated.
“If you can’t choose whether you want to have a baby, if that’s not a basic right, then I don’t know what is,” said Brita Van Rossum, 62, a landscape designer who traveled from suburban Philadelphia to join the rally for abortion rights in the nation’s capital, his first ever.
Protesters marching under the slogan “Bans Off Our Bodies” took to the streets from New York and Atlanta to Chicago and Los Angeles in a show of outrage that Democrats hope will help galvanize support for their party and blunt projected Republican gains in the November election.
The biggest protest of the day took place in Washington, where a crowd that organizers estimated at 20,000 gathered at the Washington Monument and braved a light drizzle to march along the National Mall in front of the US Capitol. United States to the Supreme Court itself.
The rally erupted to cries of “shame” and “ban on our bodies” as marchers approached the marble columns of the courthouse.
Surrounded by police were a group of a few dozen counter-protesters holding placards that read: “End abortion-related violence” and “Women’s rights begin in the womb.”
The meeting between the two parties has sometimes been tense. Abortion rights protesters shouted “Go home!” and a man hit a counter-protester in the head with his poster after the exchange of profanities. When the anti-abortion protesters left, they waved to the crowd, and a few shouted, “Bye, Roe v. Wade!
The rally appeared to remain peaceful, although at least one counter-protester was seen being escorted by a security guard to Washington earlier in the day.
“WOMEN AS OBJECTS”
The mood was also energetic and at times controversial in New York as thousands of abortion rights supporters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, where they were confronted by half a dozen anti-abortion activists. .
Police officers arrived to maintain space between the two groups as they exchanged taunts and vulgarities. The crowds thinned out in the early afternoon as rain fell on the city.
Elizabeth Holtzman, an 80-year-old former congresswoman who represented New York from 1973 to 1981, said the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion “treats women as objects, as full human beings.”
Malcolm DeCesare, a 34-year-old intensive care nurse who attended a rally in Los Angeles under sunny skies, said abolishing the right to legal abortion could put lives at risk as women seek alternatives dangerous.
Famed women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred spoke to the crowd about her own “backstreet abortion” as a young woman when she became pregnant from a gunpoint rape in front of Roe. “I almost died,” she says. “I was left in a tub in a pool of my own blood, hemorrhaging.”
US Representative Sean Casten and his 15-year-old daughter Audrey were among thousands of abortion rights supporters who gathered in a Chicago park.
Casten, whose district includes the western suburbs of Chicago, told Reuters it was ‘horrible’ that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is considering removing abortion rights and ‘condemning women to this lower status’. .
At an abortion rights protest in Atlanta, more than 400 people gathered in a small park outside the state capitol, while a dozen counter-protesters stood on a sidewalk in proximity.
Holding a sign that read “Stop Child Sacrifice,” Bria Marshall, 23, a recent public health graduate from Kennesaw State University, acknowledged her group’s low turnout.
“Jesus only had a small group, but his message was more powerful,” Marshall said.
While the Supreme Court leak pushed abortion back to the forefront of American politics, it was unclear how the issue will play out in the upcoming election.
Voters will weigh in on a host of priorities such as inflation and may be skeptical of Democrats’ ability to protect abortion access after the failure of legislation that would enshrine abortion rights in the federal law.
Many of those marching on Saturday expressed concern that the reduction in abortion rights could lead to an erosion of civil liberties in general.
“It’s just an affront to everything I believe we’re meant to be,” said Los Angeles musician Joel Altshuler, 73. “If a woman has no control over what will happen to her own body, then we are back in 1850 and not 1950.