WASHINGTON – Anguish and anger erupted across the country Tuesday as abortion rights advocates began flooding the streets, from the steps of the Supreme Court to New York, Nevada, Texas and California, protesting the potential decision by the nation’s highest court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
While abortion-rights groups have been warning of the pending decision that would permit states to ban abortions without exception, the leak Monday night of a draft opinion supported by a majority of justices galvanized fear and frustration, and protesters raised their voices.
In addition to scattered protests nationally, organizers from the Women’s March, a global protest held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, called on supporters of abortion rights to rally outside federal courthouses and other government buildings.
While a small group of anti-abortion activists materialized outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, they were outnumbered by abortion rights protesters like George Washington University freshmen Ellie Small, 19, and Emma Hearns, 18, who took a break from studying for finals. Protesters carried signs that included “Bans off our bodies” and “Protect women’s rights.” Others brandished coat hangers, used as symbols of illegal, unsafe abortions.
“We are here because it’s a really scary time to be a young woman,” Small said.
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Elsewhere across the United States, demonstrations were being organized.
A call to gather in Foley Square across the street from Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse in Manhattan was being circulated on social media among New York groups. Former New York senator and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also shared the details of the Foley Square protest on Twitter.
Social media posts circulating indicated protests were being planned near the Texas state Capitol in Austin, the U.S. courthouse in Los Angeles and the U.S. courthouse in Chicago.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll published Tuesday found that a majority of Americans support the Supreme Court upholding Roe v. Wade. The poll, conducted last week, found 54% of Americans support upholding Roe, while 28% support overturning it. The poll found 18% had no opinion.
About 49% of the nation said abortion should be “legal and accessible” in USA TODAY/Ipsos poll published this month. Only about a third of Republicans felt that way, compared with 73% of Democrats.
The Roe decision in 1973 found that laws criminalizing abortions violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey reaffirmed the rights upheld in the Roe ruling and changed the standards for laws around abortion.
Abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters gather at Supreme Court
In Washington, Jen Miller, 37, stood in silence giving the nation’s highest court the middle finger. “It just makes me feel better,” she said.
Calling the leaked Supreme Court document a “bad opinion,” Miller said she hopes the news encourages Democrats to fight back – first by “bombing” the filibuster and passing a law to protect abortion. “I want the Democrats to do their damn job,” Miller added.
Small, one of the George Washington students, said she felt it was important for people to protest in their home states, too. Hearns said her motivation is to raise awareness that stripping federal abortion protections could strip others of their rights as well.
“It’s just really scary to me that (anti-abortion activists) don’t understand that taking away abortion takes away so many rights and so many things from women and other people who have uteruses,” Hearns said.
Michelle Xai traveled from New York via Los Angeles with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, joining the protest outside the Supreme Court, where police erected barricades to keep people from approaching the building itself.
“We can’t just sit back. Now is the time to take to the streets, ” Xai said.
Songs including “This Is America” played as the crowd and an increasing number of officers from multiple law enforcement agencies milled around, waiting for a march to Tuesday evening.
Earlier in the day, anti-abortion activist Kristin Monahan, 30, demonstrated outside the building. A self-described feminist, leftist and atheist, she was part of the small but vocal crowd supporting abortion bans.
“I already feel like it makes more sense for people who support pro-peace values – anti-war, vegan, anti-death penalty – it makes more sense for people like that to be against abortion, because abortion is violence, and it’s the mass killing of young human beings,” Monahan said.
Others agreed, calling for states to have the right to make such decisions.
“Abortion is oppression,” Maggie Donica, 21, said through a megaphone. Though she described herself as anti-abortion, Donica said her primary reason for protesting is to return the right to decide on abortion to states.
Overturning Roe “is a statement of neutrality,” she said. “It gives the states back the right to make their decisions.”
But abortion rights protesters quickly outnumbered people like Monahan as the day went on.
Joining the protest to support abortion rights by late afternoon, Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, spoke from behind a lectern emblazoned with “Protect abortion, expand the court,” a reference to the push by some abortion rights groups for President Joe Biden to name several additional liberal Supreme Court justices, an unlikely move that would have to be approved by Congress.
Contributing: Chelsey Cox, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
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