WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion rights supporters took to the streets of the United States Saturday to make clear their anger that the Supreme Court may soon strike down the constitutional right to abortion. Cries of “My body, my choice” rang out as activists vowed to fight for legal protection that has endured for nearly half a century.
Outraged by a leaked draft opinion that suggested the court’s conservative majority would vote to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, activists rallied to express their outrage and mobilize for the future as Republican-led states are poised to enact tougher restrictions.
In the nation’s capital, thousands of people gathered in a drizzling rain at the Washington Monument to hear fiery speeches before marching on the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by two layers of security fencing.
The mood was one of anger and defiance.
“I can’t believe that at my age I still have to protest this,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government employee who is preparing for a state-by-state battle over abortion rights.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, was wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar and a necklace that said “vote.”
“I believe that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think that banning abortion stops abortion. It just makes it unsafe and it can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
Half a dozen anti-abortion protesters sent a contrary message, with Jonathan Darnel yelling into a microphone: “Abortion is not health care, folks, because pregnancy is not a disease.”
From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and from Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in “Bans Our Bodies” events. Organizers hoped that among the hundreds of events, the largest would be held in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other big cities.
“If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’re going to get,” Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said before the march.
Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy, but the Supreme Court seemed ready to let the states have the last word. If that happens, about half of the states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.
The battle was personal for some protesters.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said that she might not be alive today 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.
At that rally, speaker after speaker told the crowd that if abortion is banned, the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori, put it. Lightfoot.
“This has never been 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 allow that to happen,” he added.
In New York, thousands of people gathered in the Brooklyn courthouse square ahead of a march across the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan, where another rally was planned.
“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 booming music.
Robin Seidon, who traveled from Montclair, New Jersey, for the rally, said the nation was a place abortion-rights advocates had long feared.
“They’ve been nibbling at the edges, and it was always a matter of time before they thought they had enough power on the Supreme Court, which they do now,” said Seidon, 65.
The next high court ruling in a Mississippi case is set to energize voters, which could shape the upcoming midterm elections.
In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, a challenger to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined the protesters just days before early voting begins in her primary runoff against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. The race could be one of the first tests of whether the court leak will boost voters.
In Chicago, Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse caring for her 1- and 3-year-old daughters, agreed with the need to vote. “Just like federal elections, voting in every small election is just as important,” she said.
Saturday’s demonstrations come three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade. Sponsors included the Women’s March, Move On, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn, SEIU and other organizations.
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine. Associated Press writers Don Babwin in Chicago, David Porter in New York, Paul Weber in San Antonio, and Jacquelyn Martin and Anna Johnson in Washington contributed to this report.