WASHINGTON – Abortion-rights advocates gathered in the nation’s capital and by state capitol buildings across the country Saturday for a challenging task: persuading the Supreme Court not to reverse the 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
Tens of thousands participated in demonstrations from Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California.
In Washington, D.C., protesters predicted there will be more rallies, especially after the Supreme Court issues its final ruling on Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy as some state legislatures consider outright bans.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told the crowd congressional Republicans would likely go for a national ban on abortion, ignoring states that allow the practice. Thanking the crowd for its “righteous indignation,” Lee said “we fought these battles 50 years ago,” but they will have to do so again.
“We all know that this is a crisis moment,” said Lee, who recalled how afraid she was to get an abortion at 15 in Mexico.
More than 380 “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstrations for abortion rights were planned for Saturday, with the largest crowds expected in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, according to organizers. Sponsors of the daylong event include 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 nationwide “day of action” months before a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision leaked, sparking celebrations from anti-abortion demonstrators and protests outside the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by a security fence, and the Justice’s homes.
The protests come days after the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have enshrined a nationwide right to abortion.
More than 1,000 demonstrators had gathered at Nashville, Tennessee’s Legislative Plaza by Saturday afternoon, with additional rallies scheduled across the state.
Amy Griffith said she is a Christian but does not believe abortion should be outlawed.
“We are not a theocracy,” she said, echoing the sign she was carrying.
Her daughter Leah Griffith said public support is largely in favor of keeping abortion legal, pointing to recent polls that found more than half of Americans support it. She also said she’s afraid that states banning abortion will only make it unsafe, especially for people without the resources to access it in other states.
“It’s going to happen regardless of if it’s legal,” said Leah Griffith while holding a sign featuring a snake in the shape of a uterus that read, “don’t tread on me.”
In Washington, thousands of abortion rights supporters gathered near the Washington Monument 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 put some pressure on them,” said Sandra Harrington, 61, a retired public education administrator from Warrenton, Virginia. “I, unfortunately, do think it’s a done deal, and I’m terribly sad about that.”
Demonstrators in the nation’s capital marched shoulder to shoulder toward the Supreme Court to the beat of bucket drums under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle. Many attendees wore ponchos and carried umbrellas and shouted chants like “hands off our bodies” and “we will fight back.”
A sole anti-abortion activist stood off to the sidelines with a megaphone yelling, “They’re not your bodies,” but the marchers shouted louder to drown him out.
“I’m here for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter,” said Jen Giordano, 51, a salesperson who traveled from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, on Saturday morning to attend the D.C. rally.
Supporters wearing pro-Roe T-shirts gathered at the stage where abortion–rights activists, elected officials and faith leaders addressed the crowd .
Organizers handed out signs, and many demonstrators made their own placards with more personal and pungent messages including “Abort SCOTUS” and “You Can’t Ban Abortions, You Can Only Ban Safe Abortions.”
Deborah Stoll, 70, a retired clinical psychologist from Takoma Park, Maryland, carried a handmade sign that read “The Hardest Decision A Woman Can Make Isn’t Yours.”
In Austin, Texas, demonstrators stood at the steps of the Texas Capitol building banging drums, singing and repeating chants like “abortion is a human right,” KVUE reported. Texas recently passed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans, prohibiting the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
In New York, thousands of people gathered in Brooklyn’s courthouse plaza before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge to 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 she might not be alive today if she had not 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.
Contributing: Rachel Wegner, Molly Davis, The Tennessean; The Associated Press
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