Jubilation, defiance outside U.S. Supreme Court in wake of Roe v. Wade reversal | The Canadian News

It was 1971 when a then 17-year old, pregnant Janet Clazzy had to travel from her home in Florida to New York to get an abortion because it was illegal in her state. 

Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case known as Roe v. Wade, deciding that the U.S. Constitution protects women’s right to terminate a pregnancy and the state cannot interfere with that right except in exceptional circumstances.

“It was wonderful,” Clazzy, 69, said. “Somebody asked me if I’ve been protesting for Roe v. Wade all along, and I said, ‘No, I didn’t think I had to. Our federal court and Supreme Court are supposed to protect our rights, not take them away.”

Clazzy, a retired musician, was just one of hundreds of supporters for abortion rights who gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., Friday to express their anger and dismay at the court’s decision to overrule that 50-year-old opinion.

The majority conservative court ruled 6-3 to overturn the Roe v. Wade interpretation of the constitution and found that it does not protect abortion rights, opening the way for states to restrict or outright ban the medical procedure.

Janet Clazzy had an abortion when she was 17, two years before the Roe v. Wade ruling, but had to travel outside her home state of Florida to get it. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

‘I’m overjoyed’

For the past couple of weeks, small groups of abortion rights supporters and anti-abortion activists have gathered in front  of the 2.4-metre-tall fence erected around the Supreme Court, anxiously awaiting the ruling. The area had been cordoned off as part of ramped-up security measures in the days after a draft of the court’s opinion was leaked.

On Friday, security was beefed up even more and police stood behind the fence, arresting a few who tried to climb it. Some security officials waded through the crowd keeping the peace between opposing groups. 

Just past 10 a.m. ET,  with word that the opinion on the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case testing a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, was to be released, both groups grew quieter.

Then, a woman there to protest against abortion grabbed her megaphone and announces: “The constitution does not confer a fight to an abortion.”

The announcement set off cheers of jubilation from those opposing abortion rights, as they blasted music and turned the area where they had assembled into a mini street celebration.

Opponents of abortion celebrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court after learning of the reversal of Roe v. Wade. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

For those who had been hoping Roe v. Wade would not be overturned, the decision was a blow, and sparked tears and disbelief, and chants of “Illegitimate!” 

But North Carolina resident Ilona Schwartz was ecstatic at hearing of the decision.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said. “This is the greatest day of my entire life.”

‘This is the greatest day of my entire life,’ said Ilona Schwartz of the decision. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Schwartz was already in D.C. when the opinion came down, there for a meeting of the anti-abortion group Students for Life, and was in her hotel when she learned of the decision.

“We all started screaming and jumping, [and said], ‘We gotta get to the Supreme Court right now,'” she said.

She said she’ll continuing advocating to make abortion illegal in her own state.

Lauren Marlow, 22, from Fredericksburg, Va., said she was also excited to be living in “a post-Roe America.”

Supporters of women’s right to choose whether or not to terminate their pregnancy protest outside the court Friday. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Pro-choice activists say they won’t go silently

Later in the day, with many of the anti-abortion demonstrators left the area, and the pro-choice crowd that remained became more defiant, with many cheering as speaker after speaker vowed to continue the battle to advance abortion rights while  pleading for everyone to “Rise up for abortion rights.”

Carie McDonald, who had been at the court waiting for the decision, said she would not accept the ruling and pledged that she would keep fighting for abortion rights in states that plan to make it illegal or strictly regulate it.

“We are going to fight back,” she said. “We are never, ever, ever going to go silently. I don’t accept the ruling.”

The size of both groups swelled shortly after the decision was released, with people flooding to the Supreme Court, forming a crush of people crowding in to join their respective sides. 

An abortion-rights activist with tape labelled ‘2nd class citizen’ over her mouth outside the court Friday. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

“I believe our rights are being taken away,”” said Hanna Fredeen, a 66-year-old retired teacher from Ellensburg, Wash. “I was in high school in 1973, and I believed my daughter’s security and my granddaughter’s security would be set for life. And it has been taken.”

Trisha Maharaj, a 30-year-old D.C. resident who works for an economic think tank, said she was on a work call when her boyfriend texted her with the news of the decision.

While she expected the decision after the opinion had leaked, she said, she was still “shocked at how crushing it felt today.”

Hanna Fredeen, 66, was in high school when the Roe v. Wade ruling came down and never thought her daughters would not have the protections it offered when it came to abortion rights. (Mark Golllom/CBC)

“I immediately started crying, which was not a really great work look, but I didn’t care,” she said. “Then I cancelled that call to come here.

“I didn’t know how to keep going to work today because I dont give a f–k about taxes if I don’t get to decide what happens to my body.”

‘I don’t give a f–k about taxes if I don’t get to decide what happens to my body,’ said Trisha Maharaj, 30, who works for an economic think-tank but felt compelled to go down to the court Friday. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

Fear other rights could be vulnerable

Debra Long-Doyle said she was at home when she heard the news, but just needed to come down to the court “to show my support against the abolishment of Roe v. Wade.”

Long-Doyle said she feared that this decision was just the beginning of an erosion of rights and that future rulings could seek to roll back things like affirmative action or access to contraception. 

Debra Long-Doyle came down to the court after she learned of the ruling to express her opposition to it. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

An emotional Elizabeth White, who is also a civil rights lawyer, repeatedly shouted “No justice, no peace,” and said that in her view, the legal battle has just begun.

“This is the worst news that could come out,” she said. “It disproportionately affects brown and Black people. We know that. It disproportionately affects trans people — we know that — poor women.

“But as we have for centuries, we are going to continue fighting.”

Civil rights lawyer Elizabeth White fears the ruling will disproportionately affect people of colour. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

For those who oppose abortion, the decision was also a signal to keep fighting, but for them, the fight was to make abortion illegal in states that have said they will continue to support abortion rights and safeguard access to the medical procedure.

Elizabeth Harris, from North Carolina, who works for the anti-abortion group Sidewalk Advocates for Life, said she felt overwhelmed with gratitude at the decision.

She said when the opinion came down, she was with some college students who became very emotional. But Harris said she needed some time for it to sink in. 

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following the ruling. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/The Associated Press)

“But being [here] was very powerful, celebrating.”

She said her organization does peaceful outreach to women seeking abortions facilities providing them.

With North Carolina unlikely to restrict or outlaw abortion any time soon, Harris said her work will continue “because women will always be facing unexpected pregnancies.”

Abortion-rights activists react following the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)


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