It was 1971, when then-pregnant 17-year-old Janet Clazzy had to travel from her home in Florida to New York to get an abortion because it was illegal in her state.
Two years later, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a case known as Roe v. Wade, deciding that the US Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy and that the state cannot interfere with this right except in exceptional circumstances.
« It was wonderful, » said Clazzy, now 69. « Someone asked me if I had protested Roe v. Wade all along, and I said, ‘No, I didn’t think I had to. Our federal court and Supreme Court are meant to protect our rights, not take them away. »
Clazzy, a retired musician, was just one of hundreds of abortion-rights supporters who gathered outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, on Friday to express their anger and their dismay at the court’s decision to overturn that 50-year ruling. old opinion.
The majority Conservative court ruled 6 to 3 to overturn the Roe v. Wade of the constitution and concluded that it did not protect the right to abortion, clearing the way for states to restrict or ban the medical procedure outright.
‘I am delighted’
For the past two weeks, small groups of abortion rights supporters and anti-abortion activists have gathered outside the 2.4-meter-tall fence erected around the Supreme Court, eagerly awaiting the decision. The area had been cordoned off under heightened security measures within days of a draft court notice leaking.
On Friday, security was further tightened and police stood behind the fence, arresting a few who tried to scale it. Some security officials waded through the crowd to keep the peace between the opposing groups.
Just after 10 a.m. ET, with word that the opinion on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case used to challenge Roe v. Wade, was to be released, the two groups calmed down.
Then, a woman present to protest against abortion grabbed her megaphone and announced: “The constitution does not confer the right to abortion.
The announcement sparked cheers from those who oppose abortion rights, as they blasted music, popped champagne and started a bubble-blowing machine, transforming the area where they had gathered in a mini street celebration.
For those hoping that Roe v. Wade wouldn’t be overruled, the decision was a blow; it sparked tears and disbelief, and chants of « Illegitimate! »
But North Carolina resident Ilona Schwartz was thrilled to hear the decision. « I’m thrilled, » she said. « This is the happiest day of my entire life. »
Schwartz was already in DC when the doom fell, there for a meeting of the anti-abortion group Students for Life. She was at her hotel when she learned of the decision.
« We all started screaming and jumping [and said]’We need to go to the Supreme Court right now,' » she said.
She said she would continue to advocate for making abortion illegal in her own state.
Lauren Marlow, 22, of Fredericksburg, Va., said she was also thrilled to live in « a post-Roe America. »
WATCH | Protesters converge on the Supreme Court following the Roe v. Wade:
Pro-choice activists say they won’t go silent
Later in the day, with many anti-abortion protesters leaving, the area became more of a defiant rally for the remaining pro-choice crowd. There were frequent loud cheers as speaker after speaker vowed to continue the battle to advance abortion rights, while advocating for everyone to stand up for abortion rights.
In the early evening, hundreds of abortion rights supporters, some accompanied by their young families, had flocked to the Supreme Court.
Carie McDonald, who was in court awaiting the decision, said she would not accept the ruling and promised she would continue to fight for abortion rights in states that plan to make it illegal or to strictly regulate it.
« We are going to fight, » she said. « We will never, ever, ever go silent. I don’t accept the decision. »
Both groups increased in size shortly after the ruling was released, with people flocking to the Supreme Court, forming a stampede of people rushing to join their respective sides.
« I believe our rights are being taken away from us, » said Hanna Fredeen, a 66-year-old retired teacher from Ellensburg, Washington.
« I was in high school in 1973, and I believed my daughter and my granddaughter would be safe for life. And she was taken. »
Trisha Maharaj, a 30-year-old DC resident who works for an economics think tank, said she was on business communication when her boyfriend texted her announcing the decision.
While she expected the decision after the opinion leaked last month, she said she was still « shocked at how overwhelming it felt today ».
« I immediately started crying, which wasn’t exactly a great work look, but I didn’t care, » she said. « Then I canceled that call to come here.
« I didn’t know how to keep working today because I don’t care about taxes if I can’t decide what happens to my body. »
Abortion ‘saved my life and my future’, says activist
Renee Bracey Sherman, 36, was at home on Friday morning trying to isolate herself from news of the US Supreme Court ruling she feared.
She had a bad feeling, she said, and just couldn’t pay attention to updates about the decision.
« And then one of my colleagues who performs abortions, he texted me and the text just said ‘Fk’, and so I knew. And then I cried. And then I just took a deep breath and said, ‘I have to go to court and get back to work.' »
Sherman is the head of We Testify, an organization that supports women who have had abortions. She was once one of them herself. At 19, she got pregnant while in a risky relationship and had an abortion.
« Abortion not only saved my life and my future, but also the fact that my mother had an abortion before I was born, it allowed her to leave the relationship she was in and meet my father and have me » , Sherman said.
She became emotional as she discussed the impact of Friday’s decision, saying her first thought was for those who would no longer have the same choice they had years ago.
“My heart immediately went out to all the…patients who came into the clinics this morning thinking they were going to be able to have an abortion,” she said in tears.
« They were all hoping they could get the care they needed. »
She said the ruling and the expected rollback of abortion rights in several states could destroy « the lives of many people. »
« We need people to understand that this is about the criminalization of pregnancy, especially [for] The blacks and the browns. »
Fear that other rights are vulnerable
Debra Long-Doyle was also at home when she heard the news and also felt compelled to attend court. « To show my support against the repeal of Roe v. Wade, » she said.
Long-Doyle said she fears the ruling is just the start of an erosion of rights and that future rulings may seek to roll back things like affirmative action or access to contraception.
An emotional Elizabeth White, who is also a civil rights lawyer, repeatedly shouted « No justice, no peace ». She said she believes the legal battle has only just begun.
« This is the worst news that can come out, » she said. « It disproportionately affects brown and black people. We know that. It disproportionately affects trans people — we know — poor women.
« But as we have done for centuries, we will keep fighting. »
For those who oppose abortion, the ruling was also a signal to keep fighting, but for them the fight will be to make abortion illegal in states that have said they will continue to support the right. abortion and to guarantee access to the medical procedure.
Elizabeth Harris, of North Carolina, who works for the anti-abortion group Sidewalk Advocates for Life, said she felt overwhelmed with gratitude at the decision.
She said when the opinion was given she was with students who became very emotional. But Harris said she needed time to soak in. [here] was very powerful, celebratory. »
She said her organization peacefully reaches out to women seeking abortions and the facilities that provide them.
With North Carolina unlikely to restrict or ban abortion anytime soon, Harris said her work would continue, « because women will always face unexpected pregnancies. »