Thousands of abortion rights advocates converged on the United States on Saturday, angered at the prospect that the Supreme Court could soon overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide half a century ago.
The protests marked the start of what organizers say will be a “summer of anger” sparked by the unveiling on May 2 of a draft opinion in which the court’s conservative majority stands ready to back the 1973 ruling, which would undermine the constitutional right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy.
The court’s final ruling, which could return the power to ban abortion to state lawmakers, is expected in June. About half of the 50 states stand ready to ban or severely restrict abortion almost immediately if Roe is impeached.
“If you can’t choose whether you want a baby, if that’s not a fundamental right, then I don’t know what is,” said Brita Van Rossum, 62, a landscape designer who traveled from suburban Philadelphia to attend the abortion rights rally in the capital. of the country, her 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 outcry that Democrats hope will boost support for their party and boost expected Republican gains in weaken the November elections.
The largest demonstration of the day took place in Washington, where a crowd estimated at 20,000, organizers said, gathered at the Washington Monument and braved a light drizzle to march along the National Mall past the US Capitol to the Supreme Court itself.
The demonstration erupted into shouts of “Shame” and “Forbid our bodies” as protesters approached the marbled columns of the courthouse.
Surrounded by police was a group of several dozen counter-protesters holding placards that read: “End Abortion Violence” and “Women’s Rights Begin in the Womb.”
The meeting between the two sides became tense at times. Abortion protesters shouted, “Go home!” and a man hit a counter-protester on the head with his poster after profanity was exchanged. As the anti-abortion protesters left, they waved to the crowd, and a few shouted, “Hello, Roe v. Wade!”
The demonstration appeared to have proceeded peacefully, although earlier in the day at least one counter-protester was led away by a guard in Washington.
‘WOMEN AS OBJECTS’
The mood was similarly energetic and at times controversial in New York City, as thousands of abortion rights advocates crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, where they faced half a dozen anti-abortion activists.
Police officers arrived to maintain space between the two groups as they exchanged taunts and vulgarities. The crowd thinned out early in the afternoon as rain fell over 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 advisory “treats women as objects, as less than complete human beings.”
Malcolm DeCesare, a 34-year-old intensive care nurse who attended a meeting in Los Angeles under sunny skies, said abolishing the right to legal abortion could put lives at risk as women seek unsafe alternatives.
Famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred told the crowd about her own “abortion in an alleyway” as a young woman when she became pregnant from a gunshot rape for Roe. “I almost died,” she said. “I was left in a bathtub in a pool of my own blood, bleeding.”
U.S. Representative Sean Casten and his 15-year-old daughter, Audrey, were among several thousand abortion rights advocates gathered in a Chicago park.
Casten, whose district includes Chicago’s western suburbs, told Reuters it was “appalling” that the Supreme Court conservative majority would consider removing the right to abortion and “condemning women to this lower status.”
At a protest against abortion rights in Atlanta, more than 400 people had gathered in a small park outside the state capital, while about a dozen counterprotesters lined a nearby sidewalk.
Bria Marshall, 23, a recent graduate of public health scientist from Kennesaw State University, held a sign that read “Stop Child Sacrifice,” acknowledging her group’s smaller turnout.
“Jesus had only a small group, but his message was more powerful,” Marshall said.
Although the Supreme Court leak brought abortion back to the forefront of US politics, it was unclear how the issue will play out in the upcoming election.
Voters will weigh a host of priorities, such as inflation, and may be skeptical about Democrats’ ability to protect access to abortion after legislation that would enshrine abortion rights in federal law failed.
Many of the protesters on Saturday feared that reversing abortion rights would lead to an erosion of civil liberties in general.
“This is just an insult to everything I think we should be talking about,” said 73-year-old Los Angeles musician Joel Altshuler. “If a woman can’t control what happens to her own body, then we’re back in 1850, not 1950.