WASHINGTON- Abortion rights advocates gathered Saturday in the nation’s capital and in state capitol buildings across the country for a difficult task: to persuade the Supreme Court not to overturn the 50-year precedent set by Roe c. Wade.
After listening to the speeches of abortion–human rights activists, elected officials and religious leaders in the nation’s capital, thousands of protesters embarked on an hour-long march to the Supreme Court under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle, joining several hundred other protesters who were already there.
Many attendees wore ponchos and carried umbrellas and shouted chants like “hands off our bodies” and “we will fight” to the beat of the bucket drums. Some said they doubted the conservative Supreme Court would change course and vote to uphold Roe v. Wade But they said they wanted their voices heard.
“We can pressure them,” said Sandra Harrington, 61, a retired public education administrator from Warrenton, Va. “I unfortunately think it’s a done deal, and I’m terribly sad about that.”
More than 380 “Bans Off Our Bodies” protests for abortion rights were planned for Saturday. Sponsors of the one-day event included the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Planned Parenthood began organizing the nationwide ‘day of action’ months before a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was leaked, sparking celebrations from of anti-abortion protesters and demonstrations outside the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by a security fence and the homes of the justice.
Ahead of Saturday’s protests, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have enshrined a national right to abortion.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered Saturday afternoon in the legislative plaza in Nashville, Tennessee, with more rallies planned across the state.
Amy Griffith said she was a Christian but did not believe abortion should be banned.
“We are not a theocracy,” she said, echoing the sign she was carrying.
His daughter Leah Griffith said public support was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping abortion legal, pointing to recent polls which found more than half of Americans backed him. She also said she worries that states banning abortion will make it unsafe, especially for people without resources to access it in other states.
“It’s going to happen whether it’s legal or not,” Leah Griffith said as she held up a womb-shaped snake sign that read “don’t step on me.”
Seeta Begui, one of the speakers at Saturday’s rally in Viera, Florida, said a formative experience from her childhood occurred when a family member died in Trinidad and Tobago after an abortion. “in the street”.
“We are always fighting for reproductive rights. We cannot allow hatred, ignorance and misinformation to win,” she said. “We are not going to back down.”
Hundreds gathered in the Old Town Square of Fort Collins, Colorado for a rally featuring a dozen speakers, including a labor and delivery nurse who worked in a pre-Roe , a number of abortion rights advocates and elected officials.
Many people brought homemade signs with hanger designs saying “Never again” or phrases such as: “Shame on SCOTUS”, “Accept my existence or expect resistance” and “Women don’t are the property of no one”. Rallies were also planned in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Annmarie Izuel Evans, vice president of the NoCo National Organization for Women, which helped plan and host the event, said it was “horrifying” that protesters had to gather today.
“Roe v. Wade was enacted in (1973),” she told the crowd. “We have to unite, we have to mobilize, we have to act and, I will say this throughout the day, we have to vote.”
About 400 people gathered outside the Rhode Island Supreme Court, including mothers and daughters. Pink was the predominant color of the day, with t-shirts emblazoned with messages such as ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ and signs reading ‘Abolish the Supreme Court’ and ‘Abortion is health care’ .
In front of the rally, Margo Weiss and her 3-year-old daughter, Amelie, painted a giant mural in primary colors that read “Bans Off Our Bodies”.
“This question is important to me,” said Margo Weiss. “It’s good to show our kids what’s possible if you use your voice.”
Deborah O’Brien was one of hundreds of protesters who gathered with flags, signs and hangers outside the Ohio Statehouse.
“I just can’t believe we’re back on this,” the 70-year-old said. “I’m really, really upset.”
Crowds blocked the streets just outside the Statehouse and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, abortion bans must go.” Anti-abortion activists, including the group “Created Equal”, also held signs outside the rally, with pictures of aborted fetuses.
In Austin, Texas, protesters stood on the steps of the Texas Capitol Bbuilding banging drums, singing and repeating chants like “abortion is a human right”, KVUE reported. Texas recently passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, banning the procedure after around six weeks of pregnancy.
In New York, thousands gathered in Brooklyn Courthouse Square before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan, where another rally was planned.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend a rally in Chicago, said she fears for women in states that are prepared to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she hadn’t had a legal abortion when she was 15.
“I was already starting to self-harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
In Washington, a lone anti-abortion activist stood on the sidelines with a megaphone shouting, “These aren’t your bodies,” but marchers shouted louder to drown him out.
“I’m here for my daughter and my daughter’s daughter,” said Jen Giordano, 51, a saleswoman who traveled from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, on Saturday morning to attend the DC rally.
Deborah Stoll, 70, a retired clinical psychologist from Takoma Park, Maryland, carried a handmade sign that read “The hardest decision a woman can make is not yours.”
Protesters predicted there will be more rallies, especially after the Supreme Court issued its final ruling on Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy as some state legislatures consider pure and simple prohibitions.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, told the Washington crowd that congressional Republicans would likely opt for a nationwide ban on abortion, ignoring states that allow the practice. Thanking the crowd for their “righteous outrage,” Lee said “we fought these battles 50 years ago,” but they will have to do it again.
“We all know this is a time of crisis,” said Lee, who recalled how scared she was about having an abortion at age 15 in Mexico.
Contributor: Rachel Wegner, Molly Davis, The Tennessean; Molly Bohannon, Fort Collins Colorado; Thomas Hanks, The Columbus Dispatch; Linda Borg, The Providence Journal; The Associated Press