As thousands march across the US to defend abortion rights, activists call for a ‘summer of rage’

Pro-abortion rights protesters shout as they walk down Constitution Avenue during the Bans Off Our Bodies march on May 14, 2022 in Washington, DCAnna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Taina Litwak had an abortion in 1974. She was seventeen years old at the time. She had her boyfriend’s mother drive her from Connecticut to New York, where she was able to have her procedure done without her parents having to approve. Then, just a few years later, Mrs. Litwak’s own mother also had an abortion.

Had they not had the right to make those decisions, Ms. Litwak said as she stood in the crowd at a pro-choice rally in Washington, the consequences could have been dire.

“Maybe he never went to college, and so he didn’t want to have a child. I am a mother of two children, and my children are my pride and joy, but I had them when the time was right,” she said. “My mother was 55 years old when she had an abortion. A pregnancy at that age could have been dangerous.”

The Washington rally was one of hundreds across the United States on Saturday, part of a day of protest against a pending Supreme Court decision that is likely to end abortion rights in the United States.

A draft of the ruling, leaked last week, shows that five conservative justices are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 49-year-old decision that legalized the procedure in the US Two dozen states are preparing to ban abortion if that happens.

Some states are considering going further, with legislation that could make it a criminal offense to receive an abortion, and which could also ban some forms of contraception and crack down on charity groups that help people get abortions across borders. state.

The “Bans Our Bodies” protests could foreshadow the role reproductive rights will play in November’s midterm elections, as Democrats try to preserve their narrow majorities.

In New York, thousands of protesters marched from Brooklyn to Manhattan. In Chicago, Amy Eshleman, wife of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, warned that the Supreme Court was opening the door to roll back other rights, including the right to same-sex marriage. “This has never been just about abortion. It’s about control,” she said.

There were protests in other major metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, and in smaller communities, including Lubbock, Texas.

In Washington, Women’s March executive director Rachel Carmona called for a “summer of rage” to rally voters to a majority in Congress that would pass abortion rights into law. She warned that Democratic politicians had not taken threats to abortion access seriously enough, even as her opponents worked for decades to get anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court.

“For years, women in this country have been warning about ending abortion,” she told the crowd under cloudy skies and intermittent drizzle. “In response, what did they say? We are dramatic. Hysterical. Emotional. Overreacting. The day we warned about is here.”

Nee Nee Taylor, a Washington community activist, noted that the effect of repealing Roe will fall disproportionately on low-income and black people, who already face sometimes insurmountable barriers when trying to access health care in the US. Even in Washington, one of the most liberal cities in the country, he said, there are no maternity wards on the largely black and working-class East Side.

“In the part of DC where I grew up, we don’t even have a hospital for a black woman to have a baby,” she said. “East of the river is a desert of reproductive health care.”

Protesters marched down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court, chanting “pro-life is a lie; They don’t care if people die.” The slogan was an allusion to the medical complications that are likely to result if people are unable to access abortions legally.

  • Abortion rights activists take part in a “Bans Our Bodies” rally near the Washington Monument in Washington, DC on Saturday.TASOS KATOPODIS/Getty Images

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Others called out by name the justices who were about to vote to overturn Roe: Samuel Alito, who wrote the ruling draft, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh drew particularly intense anger for apparently flouting statements made at their Senate confirmation hearings that they considered Roe to be established law.

Maggie Sanford, 28, said it was inconceivable that a minority of the public could dictate policy on such an important issue. Since the 1980s, polls have consistently shown about 30 percent opposition to abortion.

“Seventy percent of the country supports abortion rights. Stop playing with our bodies and our health just to win elections. It’s ridiculous,” he said. “There has to be a massive structural change.”

Keri Varner, 50, who had traveled from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was worried about the fallout for her state, which is poised to outlaw abortion when the Supreme Court overturns Roe.

“People in Tennessee will not have access to safe reproductive care, and neither will they in neighboring states. You’re going to have to go hundreds of miles, which isn’t practical. It’s going to lead to a lot of unsafe practices,” he said.

Like many at the march, he said he never expected abortion access to be revoked after being in place for so long.

“I really didn’t think this was going to happen,” he said.

The protest was mostly peaceful, with some tense moments as protesters clashed with two dozen anti-abortion activists outside the Supreme Court.

Courtney Hayes, 65, held a sign showing the words “abortion”, “same-sex marriage” and “pornography” with red circles and bars through them. “What I’m trying to defend here is God,” she said. “I am not in favor of legal abortions. Same-sex marriage is immoral.”

Ms Litwak, meanwhile, said she did not think anti-abortion activists and politicians had fully thought through the consequences of their bans. One in four women have had abortions, which would potentially mean criminalizing hundreds of thousands of people each year under some of the proposed state laws, she said.

“They’re not really thinking about what this is going to look like,” added Ms. Litwak, 66, a scientific illustrator by profession who spends her spare time volunteering to help women who come to Maryland from out of state for abortions. “I can’t see how this will play out, and I don’t think they can either.”

With a report by The Associated Press

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