Thousands of abortion rights protesters gathered on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday as national tensions remain high following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
The leaked opinion mobilized abortion rights activists over the past week, with protesters converging on the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices to protest the High Courts draft decision over the past week. Protesters gathered in several cities across the US on Saturday to demonstrate in favor of abortion.
“It’s the first day of a summer of rage,” Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March and one of the organizers behind Saturday’s event, told the crowd gathered at the mall. “The end of Roe and Casey is in sight and we will not be going back.”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the worst case scenario,” he said. “There will be deadly consequences for women. But it is also not an exaggeration to say that women will fight as we always have and we will face this moment.
Ms. Carmona called on the crowd to be “ungovernable until this government starts working for us”, calling the Supreme Court “illegitimate”.
Crowds of protesters with signs lined the hill below the Washington Monument before a large stage before marching along the Mall on Constitution Ave to the Supreme Court.
“It means we are the majority,” Abby Ellicott, a psychologist in her 60s from the Washington metropolitan region, said of the turnout, which event organizers estimated at 17,000.
“He says that people want abortion to be safe and legal,” he said. “They don’t want it to be illegal or difficult to access or impossible to access. That’s what this means.
She said the opinion leak has started a “really important” conversation in the US.
“I think the conversation has shown how outraged people are about what is in the brief and what the Supreme Court intends to do,” he said. “So I think it’s been a positive conversation. I just hope it has the impact it should have.”
Justin Vogelhut, 41, carried a sign that read “Mandatory Pregnancy Is Abuse” and said he was angry about the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This is a very personal matter,” she said of abortion. “This is an individual decision with your doctor. The government is deciding on this and making a law where it has no room to make a decision.”
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Speakers before the march included Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who recalled her experience having an abortion as a teenager.
“I know firsthand what it’s like to be denied access to legal abortion,” she said. “When I was a teenager I had an abortion. I was so scared. I didn’t know what to expect other than this decision could put my life in danger. So I’m here to tell you. I have experienced the fear, stigma and despair of being denied the care you need.”
“Today we are here to tell these radical extremists that if they criminalize people for having abortions, if they make abortion illegal, if they take away our right to make personal decisions about our bodies, we will see them at the polls in November. ”, said Ms. Lee.
A small crowd of counter-protesters formed in front of a sign reading “Everybody’s looking at you guys, screaming for child blood,” near where the crowd gathered.
Jonathan Darnel, 40, and one of the counter-protesters said he was there to “counter the lies being preached” from the stage.
“We know there’s a lot of pro-choice rhetoric that a lot of abortion advocates don’t really have to deal with,” she said. “They just absorb the talking points and regurgitate them. And I think we can counter many of them quite effectively.”
Darnel said he was not representing a particular group, but said he urges Christians to take to the streets to preach “the pro-life message.”
After several speakers addressed the crowd, protesters converged on Constitution Avenue for the march to the Supreme Court.
Spectators lined the street as the crowd, stretching for blocks, passed by.
A brother and sister, both area college students who wished to remain anonymous, watched the crowd pass as they discussed their disagreements about abortion.
The brother, who opposed abortion, said that while some of the protesters had positive messages, he took issue with some of the posters on display.
“I saw a sign saying Republican judges were like the Taliban, which is pretty outrageous,” he said. “A terrorist organization that massacres women in front of judges who interpret the Constitution. I think that’s also part of the atmosphere here mingling with some people on the other side as well, you see they’re emotionally driven. They forget that the court is interpreting the Constitution.”
The sister, who supports abortion, interrupted to say that you can’t separate the emotions from the topic.
“I think there are signs and there are arguments that are a bit extreme and marginal, but it is a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a family,” she said. “It is the woman’s right to choose.”
But while the two disagreed on the abortion issue, both said they feared the United States was becoming too polarized.
“The people who organized this were able to mobilize a lot of people by appealing to their base,” the sister said. “But they didn’t attract the other side and I think this move is too radical. People are just disgusted on the other side. You won’t see Republicans here except my brother.”
Protesters loudly chanted “Abortion is health care!” and “Keep your theology out of my biology!” while advancing down Constitution Avenue.
Once outside the Supreme Court, the crowd continued to chant and wave banners before winding down and disbursing without incident.
Saturday’s event followed week-long protests outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices that Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have condemned as crossing the line.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Rep. Lee’s party affiliation. Mrs. Lee is a Democrat.
“I think it is reprehensible. Stay away from the homes and families of elected officials and members of the court,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told CNN on Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called the protests “an attempt to replace the rule of law with the rule of the mob.”
“Trying to scare federal judges into ruling a certain way is outside the bounds of First Amendment speech or protest,” he said.
Other lawmakers have backed the protesters.
“If the protests are peaceful, yes,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Tuesday. “My house, there are protests three or four times a week outside my house. The American way of peacefully protesting is fine.”
The leaked Supreme Court decision also spurred an attempt by Senate Democrats to pass legislation that would codify the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion as law.
Republicans opposed the measure, known as the Women’s Health Protection Act, arguing that the bill would go far beyond codifying Roe v. Wade by eliminating virtually all state-enacted restrictions on abortion.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, joined Republicans in opposing the measure, calling it an “expansion” of abortion.
The Senate voted 49-51 in a procedural vote on the measure, falling well short of the 60 votes needed.