Abortion supporters began gathering for protests across the United States on Saturday, starting what organizers said would be “a summer of anger” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion across the country.
Planned Parenthood, Women’s March and other abortion rights groups organized more than 400 “Bans Off Our Bodies” marches for Saturday, with the largest turnout expected in New York City, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The demonstrations are a response to the leak on May 2 of a draft opinion showing that the court’s conservative majority is ready to overturn the 1973 landmark decision that established a federal constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
The court’s final ruling, which could give states the power to ban abortion, is expected in June. About half of US states could ban or severely restrict abortion shortly after a decision was made by Roe.
The organizers said they expected hundreds of thousands of people to take part in Saturday’s event, which they said would be the first of many coordinated protests over the Supreme Court’s decision. Surveys indicate that most Americans want to maintain access to abortion, at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy.
“For the women of this country, this is going to be a summer of anger,” said Rachel Carmona, president of the Women’s March. “We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, until the attacks on our bodies are released, until the right to abortion is codified by law.”
Gatherings before the congressional election
Several thousand abortion supporters began gathering in a park in Chicago on Saturday morning, including US Representative Sean Casten and his 15-year-old daughter, Audrey.
The cast, whose district includes Chicago’s western suburbs, told Reuters it was “awful” that the Conservative Supreme Court would consider removing the right to abortion and “sentencing women to this lower status.”
Democrats, who currently hold the White House and both chambers of the US Congress, hope the backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision will lead their party’s candidates to victory in the November congressional election.
But voters will weigh abortion rights against other issues such as skyrocketing food and gas prices, and they may be skeptical of Democrats’ ability to protect access to abortion after efforts to pass legislation that would incorporate abortion rights into federal law failed.
In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger marched to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined protesters just days before the early voting begins in her primary vote against US Representative Henry Cuellar. The contest may be one of the first tests on whether the court leak will stimulate voters.
During an abortion rights protest in Atlanta, more than 400 people had gathered in a small park in front of the state capital.
Elizabeth Murphy, 40, a sales representative from nearby Cobb County and a lifelong Democrat, said she believes supporters of abortion rights will appear in the midterm elections in November.
“I am voting and this time I am telling everyone I know to vote,” she said.
The atmosphere in downtown Brooklyn was energetic on Saturday as thousands of supporters of abortion rights got ready to cross the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan.
Elizabeth Holtzman, an 80-year-old marcher who represented New York in Congress from 1973 to 1981, said the leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court “treats women as objects, as less than full-fledged people.”
“I have been fighting for women’s rights for 50 years and I do not intend to give up,” she said.
Supporters of abortion rights in Washington met at the Washington Monument with plans to go to the US Supreme Court. In Los Angeles, protesters planned to meet at City Hall, and a group in Austin, Texas, would gather in the state capital.
Protesters turn to the Supreme Court
Over the past week, protesters have gathered outside the homes of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, who have voted to overthrow Roe v. Wade, according to the leaked opinion.
Judge Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday that confidence in the court was “gone forever” after the leak.
“When you lose that trust, especially in the institution I’m in, it fundamentally changes the institution,” said Conservative Justice.
Students for Life of America, an anti-abortion group with campus departments across the country, said they held counter-protests on Saturday in nine cities, including Washington.