Supporters of abortion rights took to the streets across the US on Saturday to make clear their anger at the prospect that the Supreme Court will soon strike down the constitutional right to abortion.
Cries of “My body, my choice” rang out as activists committed to fighting for what they called reproductive freedom.
Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the conservative majority on the court would vote to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling, activists rallied to express their outrage and mobilise for the future as Republican-led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.
In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered in drizzly weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by two layers of security fences.
The mood was one of anger and defiance.
“I can’t believe that at my age, I’m still having to protest over 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, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar on it and a necklace that spelled out “vote”.
“I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life,” Ms Loehr said.
From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in “Bans off our Bodies” events.
Organisers expected that among the hundreds of events, the largest would take place in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other big cities.
“If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll 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 earlier stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say. If that happens, roughly half of states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.
In New York, thousands of people gathered in Brooklyn’s courthouse plaza before a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to 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 is ahead for them,” Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan, said to the backdrop of booming music.
The upcoming high court ruling in a case from Mississippi stands to energise voters, potentially shaping the upcoming mid-term elections.
In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined demonstrators just days before early voting begins in her primary run-off against US Representative Henry Cuellar. The race could be one of the first tests over whether the court leak will galvanise voters.
Saturday’s rallies 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 organisations.
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