Abortion rights supporters took to the streets across America on Saturday to express their anger at the prospect of the Supreme Court soon to remove the constitutional right to abortion. The cries of “My body, my choice” echoed as activists campaigned for what they called reproductive freedom.
Outraged after a leaked draft opinion suggested the conservative majority would vote in the court to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade ruling, activists gathered to express their outrage and mobilize for the future as Republican-led states ready to impose stricter restrictions.
In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered at the Washington Monument in drizzly weather to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, now surrounded by two layers of security fences.
The mood was one of anger and defiance.
“I can’t believe I still have to protest about this at my age,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government employee who is preparing for a state-to-state battle over abortion rights.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissident” collar and a necklace with “vote” on it.
“I think women should have the right to choose what they do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and could cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
Half a dozen anti-abortion protesters counter-messed, with Jonathan Darnel yelling into a microphone, “Abortion isn’t healthcare, folks, because pregnancy isn’t a disease.”
From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands took part in “Bans off our Bodies” events. Organizers expected the largest of the hundreds of events to take place in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other major cities.
“If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’re going to have,” Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said before the march.
Polls show that most Americans want to maintain access to abortion — at least in the early stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court seemed poised to let states have the last word. If that happens, about half of the states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to ban abortion soon.
The fight was personal for some protesters.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the rally in Chicago, said she fears women in states ready 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 hurt myself, and I would have rather died than have a baby,” says Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
At that meeting, speaker after speaker told the crowd that if abortion is banned, the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “stripped,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, put it.
“This was never just about abortion. It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. “My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen,” she added.
In New York, thousands of people gathered at the Brooklyn courthouse for a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan, where another meeting was scheduled.
“We’re here for the women who can’t be here, and for the girls who are too young to know what’s in store for them,” said Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan, to the background of booming music.
Robin Seidon, who traveled from Montclair, New Jersey, for the meeting, said the nation was a place abortion rights advocates had long feared.
“They nibbled at the edges, and it was always a matter of time before they thought they had enough power in the Supreme Court, which they have now,” said Seidon, 65.
The upcoming Supreme Court ruling in a Mississippi case will energize voters and potentially shape the upcoming midterm elections.
In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger of one of the last anti-abortion Democrats marched into Congress in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined the protesters in her primary runoff election against U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar just days before the early voting began. The race could be one of the first tests to see if the leak at the court will excite voters.
In Chicago, Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse with daughters ages 1 and 3, agreed on the need to vote. “Just like in federal elections, voting in every small election is just as important,” she said.
Saturday’s rallies come three days after the Senate failed to gather enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade. Sponsors included the Women’s March, Move On, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn, SEIU and other organizations.