Abortion protests continue after Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade
Late Saturday morning, a crowd of protesters had massed on First Street NE, between the Capitol and the Supreme Court, in a loud but peaceful rally – although some abortion rights advocates engaged in exchanges of anger with anti-abortion activists, who appeared in much smaller numbers.
“Not your womb, not your choice,” they shouted as a group formed a semi-circle outside the court building and girls and adults moved forward. One of them took the megaphone and led the crowd in defiant chanting of the decision.
“I disagree,” read one sign. Others demanded a “separation of church and state” and called on Congress to “codify Roe.” At one point, a man cycled through the congregation, disrupting a speech while playing religious music and displaying a “JESUS SAVE” sign. The demonstrators shouted at him: “Abandon the court!
On First Street, 11-year-old Penelope Hall of Blacksburg, Va., took the megaphone to the Supreme Court to deliver her message: “The decision they’ve made doesn’t affect them,” she said. “But it affects me, my friends and my family.”
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Other protesters cheered loudly as she handed the megaphone to the next speaker. With her father, Nathan Hall, standing next to her, Penelope said she wanted to tell the court that abortion was her right. Nathan Hall, 44, said he was “proud of her confidence and ability to articulate her voice. One of her first dream jobs was to be on the Supreme Court protecting women’s rights.
DC police said they activated the entire department – placing officers on standby in the event of violence or vandalism – throughout the weekend. U.S. Capitol police say two people charged with throwing paint over the fence by the Supreme Court were arrested on Saturday for destruction of property. And an abortion rights activist who had been at the top of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge since Friday morning came down Saturday afternoon, according to DC police. He had been on top of the bridge for over 24 hours.
On Friday, thousands of abortion-rights supporters gathered in downtown Washington to attack the decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which a majority of judges ruled that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion. Other marches to protest the decision took place in New York, Chicago, Nashville, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities. After a draft of the advisory leaked last month, few were surprised. But many were still in shock.
Outside the court building on Saturday, Kate Ireland of Chevy Chase, Maryland bounced her 2-year-old daughter, Eleanor, onto her lap as the crowd chanted, “My body, my choice!”
“Can you tell?” Ireland, 40, asked her daughter, as Eleanor looked around with wide eyes. They came with Kate’s sister, Elizabeth McNamee, 33, from the district, who is queer. The two sisters also worry about other rights that would then be annulled, including same-sex marriage.
Ireland said she read books with Eleanor about why people march and sing, and she hopes the word ‘protest’ will soon become part of Eleanor’s vocabulary. “We want to protect your body,” she said, kissing her daughter’s head.
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The scene outside the court in the immediate wake of the Dobbs Friday’s decision captured wildly divergent reactions from Americans at a defining moment in one of the nation’s most bitter debates. Anti-abortion activists overjoyed in a long-sought legal victory as abortion rights supporters expressed their fury and despair. Saturday brought a similar outpouring.
Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, applauded the court’s decision as he stood outside the building. He compared the judges’ decision to the Allies’ successful invasion of Normandy in the fight against Nazi Germany during World War II, adding that he ultimately wanted a federal law banning abortion nationwide.
The decision “was a victory, but it’s like D-Day,” Terry said. “Our goal is to get to Berlin. Our mission is to make it illegal to kill a human being from conception to birth in all 50 states.”
Carol Foulke, who is old enough to remember World War II, came to First Street from Northern Virginia in a wheelchair pushed by her daughter. “Social worker for access to abortion,” read her sign.
It’s “very important that as many people who feel like me come out here and let the government know we’re here,” Foulke, 93, said as protesters, mostly women, approached to shake hands. take a picture with her. “It will be harder for the young people because they have lived with Roe vs. Wade their whole lives,” she said. “They don’t know what it’s like not to have that.”
Caitlynn Sawilski, 19, drove up from Dover, Del., with a sign she made in 2018 for the March Against Gun Violence For Our Lives: “So you’re only pro-life when a uterus is involved?
The other side of the sign said, “This is four years ago, why am I still using it?”
“It’s ridiculous that I have a sign that applies to trying to fight for gun safety and reproductive rights,” Sawilski said.
Tim Clement, of Oxnard, Calif., arrived in DC on Wednesday, anticipating the overturning of the decision roe deer. He said he was here to celebrate and, like Terry, to prepare for the next steps. “Now the fight really begins,” said Clement, 49, a teacher and chaplain. “It’s about moving forward, not backward. Abortion laws need to change across the country. It’s a fight to change people’s minds.
Mary Tretola-Johnson, 46, held a neon green sign above her head saying she was a rape victim.
She said she was sexually abused for over a year when she was a teenager. Although she didn’t get pregnant, she says, she thinks about what could have happened – and what could happen to others.
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“There will be girls, women, who will be impregnated by sexual assault who will have no choice, and they will have to carry this baby to term. It’s a life of victimization that no man should have a say in.
Tretola-Johnson, of Upland, Calif., who has a 23-year-old daughter, said she was crying and feeling numb when the court ruling was announced.
“I can’t believe this is what God wanted, not the God I serve,” she said. “All I could think was, ‘Not in America.’ It was overwhelming.
She added: “I’m hurt, I’m scared and I want this to be heard.”
Like Tretola-Johnson, Amanda Kelly, 44, said she was sexually assaulted and was lucky not to get pregnant as a result. But she had two children at a young age, she said, before an unwanted third pregnancy. “I was so poor I couldn’t afford abortion,” Kelly, from Northern Virginia, said. “I was planning to kill myself because I couldn’t take care of the children I had.”
She said her father ended up paying for an abortion, and she came to Saturday’s protest because “even those women who don’t know better, I protect their right to make a choice.”
By evening in DC, the crowd that had swelled to nearly a thousand outside the Supreme Court dwindled to less than around a few hundred.
Elsewhere around the country, hundreds of people gathered in Willard Park next to Cleveland City Hall on Saturday, from as far away as Akron, an hour’s drive away, and carrying homemade signs that reflected their unambiguous anger and refusal to accept Friday’s Supreme Court decision.
“I refuse to live in a country like this, and I’m not leaving,” it read.
“Guns have more rights than my womb,” read another.
As speakers took the microphone to deliver fiery speeches, the crowd chanted, “Never surrender! Abortion forever!
Among several hundred protesters gathered in a Portland park was Betty McArdle, 75, who carried a sign that read, “I marched for Roe in 1972.”
She recalled protesting before the 1973 Supreme Court ruling decades ago and said it “irritates me” to be protesting for abortion rights again.
“There are a lot of things that look like 1972,” she said. The crowd spanned all age groups, including young children, and speakers took to the stage delivering speeches calling for the abolition of the Supreme Court.
In Austin, before the start of an organized early evening protest, a small crowd stood for hours in sweltering heat outside the Texas Capitol. A couple with three children showed up with signs saying “BABY LIVES MATTER”, but most of the signs and attendees were in favor of abortion rights.
“I hope people see that the huge population of this country does not agree with this decision,” said Kara Herrmann, who was in town for a conference and joined the protesters when she saw the new. “And then if we’re supposed to be a free country for all, then we all need recognition.”
Andrea Simakis in Cleveland, Tuck Woodstock in Portland, Eva Ruth Moravec in Austin, and Omari Daniels in Washington contributed to this report.