Abortion rights supporters began gathering for protests across the United States on Saturday, starting what organizers said would be “a summer of rage” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Planned Parenthood, Women’s March and other abortion rights groups organized more than 400 “Bans Off Our Bodies” marches for Saturday, with the largest turnouts expected in New York City, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The demonstrations are in response to the May 2 leak of a draft opinion showing the court’s conservative majority ready to reverse 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 U.S. states could ban or severely restrict abortion soon after a ruling vacating Roe.
Organizers said they anticipated hundreds of thousands of people to participate in Saturday’s events, which they said would be the first of many coordinated protests around the Supreme Court’s decision. Polls indicate that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion, at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy.
“For the women of this country, this will be a summer of rage,” said Rachel Carmona, president of Women’s March. “We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, until the attacks on our bodies let up, until the right to an abortion is codified into law.”
Rallies ahead of congressional elections
Several thousand abortion backers began amassing in a Chicago park on Saturday morning, including U.S. Rep. Sean Casten and his 15-year-old daughter, Audrey.
Casten, whose district includes Chicago’s western suburbs, told Reuters it was a “horrible” that the conservative Supreme Court would consider taking away the right to an abortion and “condemn women to this lesser status.”
Democrats, who currently hold the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress, hope that backlash to the Supreme Court decision will carry their party’s candidates to victory in congressional elections in November.
But voters will be weighing abortion rights against other issues such as the soaring prices of food and gas, and they may be skeptical of Democrats’ ability to protect abortion access after efforts to pass legislation that would enshrine abortion rights in federal law failed.
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 runoff against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. The race could be one of the first tests over whether the court leak will galvanize voters.
At an abortion rights protest in Atlanta, more than 400 people had assembled in a small park in front of the state capitol.
Elizabeth Murphy, 40, a sales representative from nearby Cobb County and a lifelong Democrat, said she believes abortion rights supporters will turn out for the November midterm elections.
“I vote and this time around I’m telling everyone I know to vote,” she said.
The mood was energetic in downtown Brooklyn on Saturday as thousands of abortion rights supporters readied to cross the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.
Elizabeth Holtzman, an 80-year-old marcher who represented New York in Congress from 1973 to 1981, said that the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion “treats women as objects, as less than full human beings.”
“I’ve been fighting for women’s rights for 50 years and I’m not going to give up,” she said.
Abortion rights backers in Washington met at the Washington Monument with plans to walk to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Los Angeles, protesters planned to meet at City Hall, and a group in Austin, Texas, was to convene at the state capitol.
Protesters target Supreme Court
In the past week, protesters have gathered outside the homes of Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, who have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to the leaked opinion.
Justice Clarence Thomas said at a conference in Dallas on Friday that trust within the court was “gone forever” following the leak.
“When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally,” the conservative justice said.
Students for Life of America, an anti-abortion advocacy group with campus chapters across the country, said it was holding counter-protests on Saturday in nine cities, including in Washington.