Thousands of abortion rights protesters rallied on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday as national tensions remain high after the leak of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
The leaked opinion mobilized abortion rights activists last week, with protesters converging on the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices to protest the Supreme Court’s preliminary ruling last week. Protesters came out on Saturday in several US cities to protest in favor of abortion.
“The day we warned about has arrived,” Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March and one of the organizers of Saturday’s event, told the crowd gathered at the mall. “Roe and Casey’s end is in sight and we’re not going back.”
“It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the worst case scenario,” she said. “There will be deadly consequences for women. But it is also no exaggeration to say that women will fight as we have always done and face this moment.”
Mrs. Carmona called for the crowd to be “ungovernable until this government starts working for us” and called the Supreme Court “illegitimate.”
Floods of protesters carrying placards lined the hill below the Washington Monument before a large stage before marching the entire length of the Mall on Constitution Ave to the Supreme Court.
“It means we’re the majority,” Abby Ellicott, a 60-year-old psychologist from the Washington metropolitan area, said of the turnout, which event organizers estimated at 17,000 people.
“It says people want abortion to be safe and legal,” she said. “They don’t want it to be illegal or difficult to access or impossible to access. That’s what it means.”
She said the leaked opinion started a “very important” conversation in the US.
“I think the conversation demonstrated how outraged people are about what’s in the document and what the Supreme Court intends to do,” she said. “So I think it was a positive conversation. I just hope it has the impact it needs to have.”
Justin Vogelhut, 41, carried a sign that read “Compulsory Pregnancy Is Abuse” and said he was angered by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“This is a very personal matter,” he said of the abortion. “This is an individual decision with their doctor. The government is deciding on this and making a law where it has no place to make a decision.”
Among the speakers before the march was Representative Barbara Lee, a California Republican, who denied her experience of 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, except that this decision could put my life at risk. So I’m here to tell you. I have experienced the fear, stigma and despair of being denied the care you need.”
“We are here today to tell these radical extremists that if you criminalize people for having an abortion, if you make abortion illegal, if you take away our rights to make our personal decisions about our bodies, we will see you at the polls in November. ”, said Mrs. Lee.
A small crowd of counter-protesters formed in front of a sign that read “The whole world is watching you screaming for infant blood” near where the crowd was 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-abortion rhetoric that many abortion advocates don’t have to deal with,” he said. “They just suck up the talking points and regurgitate them. And I think we are able to fight a lot of them quite effectively.”
Mr. Darnel said he was not representing a particular group, but said he urged Christians to be out on the streets preaching more of the pro-life message” through his website geteriouschurch.com.
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, which stretched for blocks, passed.
A brother and sister, both area college students who wished to remain anonymous, watched the crowd pass as they discussed their disagreements over abortion.
The brother, who opposed abortion, said that while some of the protesters had positive messages, he disagreed with some of the posters displayed.
“I saw a sign that said GOP judges were like the Taliban, which is pretty outrageous,” he said. “A terrorist organization that kills women compared to judges who interpret the Constitution. I think that’s also part of the atmosphere here mixing with some people on the other side too, you see they’re emotionally driven. They forget that the court is interpreting the Constitution.”
The sister, who supports abortion, interrupted to say that it is not possible to separate emotions from the subject.
“I think there are signs and there are arguments that are a little extreme and marginal, but it’s a woman’s right to choose whether or not it’s in the family,” she said. “It’s a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to have sex, you know, and she shouldn’t feel insecure.”
But while the two disagreed on the topic of abortion, both said they feared the US was becoming too polarized.
“The people who organized this were able to mobilize many people by appealing to their base,” the sister said. “But they didn’t appeal to the other side and so I think this move is a little too radical. People are just repelled by him from the other side. You won’t see the Republican here, except for my brother.”
Protesters shouted loudly “Abortion is health!” and “Keep your theology out of my biology!” as they walked down Constitution Avenue.
Once outside the Supreme Court, the crowd continued to chant and wave signs before thinning out and disbursing without incident.
Saturday’s event followed protests outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices throughout the week, which Republicans and some Democrats in Congress condemned as crossing the line.
“I find it 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 Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, called the protests “an attempt to replace the rule of law with mob rule.”
“Trying to scare federal judges into deciding a certain way is way beyond the bounds of First Amendment speech or protest,” he said.
Other lawmakers supported the protesters.
“If the protests are peaceful, yes,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday. “My house – there are protests three, four times a week outside my house. The American way of peacefully protesting is good.”
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 into 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, erasing virtually all restrictions on abortion enacted by states.
Senator 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 required.