WASHINGTON- Abortion rights advocates gathered in the nation’s capital and state capitols Saturday for a daunting task: persuading the Supreme Court not to reverse the 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
After hearing speeches from 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 protesters there.
Many of the attendees wore ponchos and umbrellas and shouted chants such as “Hands off our bodies” and “We will fight” to the beat of drums. Some said they doubted the conservative Supreme Court would change course and vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, but they wanted their voices to be heard.
“We can push them a little bit,” said Sandra Harrington, 61, a retired public education administrator from Warrenton, Virginia. “Unfortunately, I think it’s a done deal, and I’m terribly sad about it.”
More than 380 “Bans Our Bodies” rallies for abortion rights are planned for Saturday. Sponsors of the day-long event included the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
Planned Parenthood began organizing the national “day of action” months before a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked that would overturn Roe v. Wade in 1973, prompting celebrations from anti-abortion protesters and protests outside the fenced-in Supreme Court and the Houses of Justice.
Before Saturday’s protests, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have enshrined the right to abortion across the country.
More than 1,000 protesters gathered at Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday afternoon, with additional rallies scheduled across the state.
Amy Griffith said she is a Christian but doesn’t think abortion should be outlawed.
“We are not a theocracy,” he said, echoing the sign he carried.
His daughter Leah said public support is largely in favor of keeping abortion legal, pointing to polls that found more than half of Americans support it. She said she fears state bans will make abortion unsafe, especially for people without the resources to access it in other states.
“It’s going to happen, regardless of whether it’s legal,” said Leah Griffith, holding up a sign with a womb-shaped snake that read, “Don’t tread 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 member of her family died in Trinidad and Tobago after a clandestine abortion.
“We are still fighting for reproductive rights. We cannot allow hate, ignorance and misinformation to win,” she said. “We’re not going to back down.”
Hundreds gathered in Fort Collins, Colorado’s Old Town Square for a rally with a dozen speakers, including a labor and delivery nurse who worked in a pre-Roe world, abortion-rights advocates and elected officials.
Many people brought homemade signs with drawings of clothes hangers that read “Never again”, or phrases such as “Shame on you SCOTUS”, “Accept my existence or expect resistance” and “Women are nobody’s property”. Rallies were planned in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Annmarie Izuel Evans, vice president of the NoCo Women’s National Organization, which helped plan and host the event, said it was “appalling” that protesters had to gather.
“Roe v. Wade became law in (1973),” he told the crowd. “We need to unite, we need to mobilize, we need to act and, I will say throughout the day, we need to vote.”
Nearly 400 people demonstrated outside the Rhode Island Supreme Court, including mothers and daughters. Pink was the predominant color of the day, on T-shirts with messages that included “Bans on our bodies” and signs that read “Abolish the Supreme Court” and “Abortion is health care.”
Across the street from the rally, Margo Weiss and her 3-year-old daughter, Amelie, painted a giant mural in primary colors that read, “Bans on our bodies.”
“This topic is important to me,” Weiss said. “It’s good to show our kids what’s possible if you use your voice.”
Deborah O’Brien was one of several hundred protesters who gathered with flags, signs and hangers outside the Ohio House of Representatives.
“I just can’t believe we’re going to be in this again,” the 70-year-old said. “I’m very, very upset.”
Crowds blocked the streets directly outside the House of Representatives, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the abortion bans have got to go.” Anti-abortion advocates, including the group Created Equal, also held signs outside the rally, featuring photos of aborted fetuses.
in austin, Protesters stood on the steps of the Texas Capitol, banging drums, chanting and chanting, “Abortion is a human right,” KVUE reported. Texas passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, banning the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
In New York, thousands gathered in the 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 ready to ban abortion. She said that she might not be alive if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15 years old.
“I was already starting to self-harm and 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, yelling, “It’s not their bodies,” but protesters shouted louder to drown him out.
“I’m here for my daughter and my daughter’s daughter,” said Jen Giordano, 51, a vendor who traveled from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on Saturday morning to attend the 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 more demonstrations, especially after the Supreme Court issues its final ruling banning most abortions in Mississippi after 15 weeks of pregnancy, as some state legislatures consider outright bans.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told the Washington crowd that Republicans in Congress would likely opt for a national abortion ban, ignoring states that allow the practice. Thanking the crowd for her “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,” Lee said, recalling the fear she had of having an abortion at age 15 in Mexico.
Contributors: Rachel Wegner and Molly Davis, The Tennessee; Molly Bohannon, of Fort Collins, Colo.; Thomas Hanks, The Columbus Office; Linda Borg, The Journal of Providence; The Associated Press
Contact breaking news reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg