By ASHRAF KHALIL and DAVID SHARP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion rights supporters who demonstrated Saturday at hundreds of marches and rallies expressed outrage that the Supreme Court will soon strike down the constitutional right to abortion that has lasted nearly a decade. half a century and their fear of what it could mean for women. reproductive choices.
Furious after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s conservative majority would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists have spoken of the need to mobilize quickly as Republican-led states are set to adopt stricter restrictions.
In the nation’s capital, thousands of people gathered in rainy weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before heading to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security barriers.
The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade.
“I can’t believe that at my age I still have to protest this,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government worker who is preparing for a state-by-state battle over the right to abortion.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black t-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissident” necklace and a necklace that spelled “vote”.
“I think women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it dangerous and can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
Half a dozen anti-abortion protesters sent out a counter message, with Jonathan Darnel shouting into a microphone: ‘Abortion is not health care, folks, because pregnancy is not a disease “.
From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and from Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands of people participated in events, where chants of “Banish Our Bodies!” and “My body, my choice!” rang. The rallies were largely peaceful, but in some cities there were tense clashes between people on opposite sides over the issue.
Polls show most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the early stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appears poised to let states have the final say. If that happens, about half of the states, mostly in the South and Midwest, should quickly ban abortion.
The battle was personal for some who came out on Saturday.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are prepared to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she hadn’t had a legal abortion when she was 15.
“I was already starting to self-harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
At the rally, speaker after speaker said that if abortion were banned, the rights of immigrants, minorities and others would also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of the mayor of Chicago, put it. , Lori Lightfoot.
“It was never just about abortion. It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. “My wedding is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen.”
In New York, thousands gathered in Brooklyn Courthouse Square ahead of a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan for another rally.
“We’re here for the women who can’t be here and for the girls who are too young to know what’s to come,” said Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan, amid booming music.
Robin Seidon, who traveled from Montclair, New Jersey, for the rally, said the nation was a place abortion rights supporters had long feared.
“They nibbled at the edges, and it was always a matter of time before they thought they had enough power on the Supreme Court, which they have now,” Seidon, 65, said.
The upcoming High Court ruling in a Mississippi case is expected to energize voters, potentially shaping the upcoming midterm elections.
In Texas, where a strict law prohibits many abortions, the challenger of one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined the protesters just days before the start of early voting in her runoff against U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, which could be one of the first tests of whether the legal leak will galvanize voters.
In Chicago, Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse carrying girls aged 1 and 3, agreed on the need to vote. “As much as federal elections, voting in every little election matters just as much,” she said.
At many rallies, speakers put the issue in stark terms, saying women and girls would die if abortions were banned.
In Los Angeles, high-profile attorney Gloria Allred told how she was unable to get a legal abortion after being raped at gunpoint in the 1960s. She ended up bleeding life-threateningly after an abortion “in an alley”.
“I want you to vote like your life depends on it, because it does,” she told the crowd.
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine. Associated Press writers Don Babwin in Chicago, David Porter in New York, Paul Weber in San Antonio and Jacquelyn Martin, Gary Fields and Anna Johnson in Washington contributed to this report.