Pro-choice demonstrators rally across the US over expected reversal of Roe v Wade – as it happened
The Guardian’s live coverage of nationwide abortion rallies as come to an end. Here’s a look at how the protests unfolded throughout the day.
Thousands of people were taking part in protests across the US on Saturday to decry the supreme court’s expected reversal of the landmark 1973 law that made abortion legal in America.
Organizers said there were more than 380 protest events in cities including major ones in Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago to demand that the right to an abortion is not stripped away by the court, which is dominated by rightwing justices.
Gathering in large groups and holding signs that included slogans such as “Reproductive justice for all” and “We will not go back”, and chanting “My body, my choice”, the protesters have been spurred by the leak of a supreme court draft opinion on 2 May. The leaked draft showed that the five rightwing justices on the nine-member court had voted to overturn Roe v Wade, the historic case that provided federal protection for abortion rights and proved a beacon in international efforts to improve the rights of women.
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As the Los Angeles rally wrapped up, Elijah Lopez, 15, stood side by side with his mother, Lidia, carrying a sign that said “My mom is pissed.” Lidia’s sign read “Yeah, I’m pissed.”
“Today is an important day in history,” she said, referring to the rallies taking place across the US. “I was telling my son even though California is likely to maintain reproductive rights, in many other states that’s not going to be the case.”
“We can show them that people don’t want this,” Elijah said.
They came from the Inland Empire to advocate for reproductive rights together, part of a shared tradition of activism that began years ago when they started demonstrating against family separation under the Trump administration, which Lidia said was her son’s introduction to peaceful protest.
“It’s easy to just not do anything. We have to take as many opportunities as we can to show up. I want him to be here,” Lidia said.
Saturday’s rally brought out many people who had never attended such protests before but were called to action seeing reproductive rights in jeopardy. Reginald Wheeler, a lifelong Los Angeles resident, said the event downtown marked his first protest.
“I support women,” he said, “I would hope this is a reality check for those judges.” He added that he worries about what will happen when people don’t have access to abortion. “We’re gonna have a lot of unwanted children, children suffering from homelessness.”
Luna Hernandez with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, an organizer of the rally, said the event would get people into the streets to stop the supreme court from taking away reproductive rights.
“Only the people can stop this,” Hernandez said. “We have to refuse to allow this. This has to be a turning point, it’s not a done deal.”
“When abortion is illegal, women die. Forced motherhood is female enslavement,” she said.
‘Part of me hopes for change. I really hope that this rally has an impact’
Allison from Baltimore, wearing a long red outfit and a white hat from the Margaret Atwood book A Handmaid’s Tale, was standing at the Washington Monument shortly before the march began.
“I’m just here to let my voice be heard and to be a part of the movement to fight for what should be a really easy right for us to have,” she said. “ I feel that women should be in control of their own bodies and in so many ways we are not already. I don’t want to see this country become Gilead – hence the outfit – and I don’t know if Roe v Wade is overturned then a set of complex cells will have more rights than an already living human being and that just doesn’t sit right with me. I’m not necessarily pro like abortion, but like pro like, that’s not my business to choose that for somebody else.”
The Handmaid’s Tale chronicles the life and times of the dystopia of Gilead, a a totalitarian society. It is ruled by a strict religious regime that treats women as property, forcing fertile women, or “handmaids”, to produce children.
Allison said she’s hoping for change.
“Part of me hopes for change. I really hope that this rally has an impact. I’ve been pretty cynical the last few years. But I hope – I really hope that you know that this does change,” she said.
‘We’re the generation that’s going to have to deal with this’
One of the main rallies in New York city is now in the Foley Square area, where the crowd remains energized despite the rain - and the fact that many present gathered early this morning in Brooklyn and walked across the bridge into Manhattan.
A group of high-school students stood atop a monument, wearing white pants with red coloring to mimic blood. They held signs with the photographs and names of women who died after being denied safe abortions.
Another group of high school students at Foley Square explained that they were protesting, as a Roe reversal would fall on their generation. Eliza and Adriana, both 16, co-founded the feminist student group at their high school. This is their first protest, they said.
“We’re the generation that’s going to have to deal with the repercussions of this court decision,” Eliza said. “I wish I could say I was surprised, but I don’t think I was. It’s still devastating.”
Adriana voiced similar sentiments. “The sign I’m carrying today says “My uterus does not belong to the state,” Adriana said. Adriana noted that this was the same slogan advocates used decades ago, to note that the fundamental issues had not changed. “It’s infuriating.”
At the Los Angeles rally, Megan Triay was at her first reproductive rights protest on Saturday.
“This is crazy. Abortion is healthcare. It’s human rights,” she said. “It’s so hard to put into words how insane it is that you have to explain it’s my body, it’s my choice.”
Triay missed work to join thousands of other protesters at the Bans Off Our Bodies rally in LA: “I might get fired but I had to be here.”
“I’ve been in this position. I don’t regret my abortion, she said, describing how she was terrified and healthcare workers treated her with compassion and care. “To think woman after me aren’t going to get that care … There is no way this can happen.”
DC abortion rights activists marching to Supreme Court
Gloria Allred, women’s right lawyer, has shared the story of an illegal abortion she had in California in the 1960s, telling a grim story about the US before Roe V Wade became the law of the land.
At a rally in Los Angeles, Allred, who has represented women in cases against Bill Cosby, Donald Trump and Roman Polanski, described how she became pregnant after being raped at gunpoint and then nearly died from the abortion.
“I was left in a bathtub in a pool of my own blood,” the renowned feminist said. “A nurse said to me: I hope this teaches you a lesson. It did reach me a lesson, but not the one she wanted.”
“Abortion must be safe, it must be legal, it must be affordable, it must be available.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters just spoke at a reproductive rights rally in Los Angeles, telling the thousands outside city hall: “We are not backing down.”
“We are not about to give up control of our body because of the supreme court or anyone else,” she said.
The crowd greeted Waters, a longtime US representative, with thunderous applause, cheering louder under the morning sun as she said “we are going to fight like hell. We are going to fight until our right are restored”.
Thousands of people have filled up the blocks between a federal courthouse and city hall, carrying signs reading “Bans off our bodies”, “Stop the Supreme Court” and “Abortion is healthcare”, and dancing in between speeches from lawmakers and actors.
Congresswoman Karen Bass, LA mayoral candidate, led the crowd in cheers: “We will fight. We will vote.”
Anti-choice protesters filled up street corners around the protest, sometimes preaching through loudspeakers. Opponents took to the skies, leaving aerial messages overhead that said “Alex Jones was right” and promoted the website for a conservative news outlet.
People who have turned up at the protests spoke of their alarm over the prospect of losing a right that women have relied upon for the past 50 years. “How can they take away what I feel is a human right from us?” said Julie Kinsella, a teacher who took part in the New York protest. Kinsella said she felt “anger” and “outrage” when she heard the news of the draft opinion.
“It just made me think: what direction is the US moving toward with that decision?” she said. “We have made so much progress up until this point. I would just hate to see us backtrack and fight for what we already have right now.”
Pro-choice advocates rally in DC and listen to speakers at the National Mall
New York city protesters cross the Brooklyn bridge into Manhattan
Abortion rights protesters marching in Chicago
At a rally in Chicago, speaker after speaker told the crowd that if abortion is banned that the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori lightfoot put it. “This has never been just about abortion. It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. “My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen,” she added.
Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse toting daughters ages 1 and 3, agreed about the need to vote. “As much as federal elections, voting in every small election matters just as much,” she said.
From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands are participating in the “Bans off our Bodies” events. Organizers expected that among the hundreds of events, the largest would take place in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other big cities. “If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get,” Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said before the march.
Thousands rally in Washington DC
In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered at the Washington Monument before marching to the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by two layers of security fences.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar on it and a necklace that spelled out “vote.”
“I think that 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 unsafe and can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
As one of the New York city protests moved onto the entrance of the Brooklyn bridge, demonstrators chanted “Bans off our bodies now!” Drummers in the procession provided a powerful rhythm alongside the chants. “This bridge represents all of the states in this nation. We will not be divided!” New York state attorney General Letitia James said.
Striking images have emerged from the Bans Off Our Bodies rally in Washington DC.
Here are a few:
People of all ages, races and genders marching for abortion rights
Protesters have started to march from Cadman Plaza, in Brooklyn, toward the Brooklyn Bridge, en route to Downtown Manhattan, in a demonstration for reproductive health rights. It is one of hundreds of demonstrations across the US following a leaked draft Supreme Court decision that suggests the justices will vote to overturn Roe v Wade, which legalized abortion in the US.
The mood among the two-to-three thousand present is enthusiasm marked by solemnity. People of all ages, races, and genders are participating in this walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The front line is carrying a green sign that reads “Our bodies, our abortions.” Others hold signs that read “Abortion is healthcare” and “My body, my choice.”
“I always want my right to an abortion to be free and accessible,” protester Nicole Cornell 22, told The Guardian. “It’s my own choice to be pregnant. I don’t want the government to infringe on that right.” Protesters are also expected to gather in New York City’s Union Square at 2 pm.
Abortion rights activists are rallying outside Texas’s State Capitol:
As the US braces for the end of a federal right to abortion, a new six-week ban in Oklahoma offers a preview of what’s to come.
The day after the supreme court leak, Andrea Gallegos had already started to cancel patients’ appointments.
In the aftermath, Gallegos, the administrator for Tulsa Women’s Clinic, an Oklahoma-based abortion provider, wasn’t worried about Roe – at least, it wasn’t the first thing she was worried about.
To her, there was a bigger, more immediate threat: a six-week abortion ban the Republican governor was expected to sign any day now.
That same evening, to little fanfare, Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law the six-week abortion ban. The state supreme court declined to block the ban. If the clinic saw their patients on Wednesday, they risked civil lawsuits with a penalty of up to $10,000.
So Gallegos did what she had dreaded. She began calling back patients who were past six weeks pregnant. The scheduled appointments would have to be canceled. If they wanted to seek an abortion, she told them, they should look somewhere else – Kansas, New Mexico or, a bit further away, Colorado.
More protesters arrive in New York
State judicial races become increasingly politicized over issues such as abortion, partisan gerrymandering and gun rights.
Spending and campaigning around the judicial races could intensify if the US supreme court overturns Roe v Wade, which a leaked draft opinion indicates justices are prepared to do.
“State courts are going to be front-and-center in the fight over abortion access,” said Doug Keith, an attorney in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “These races in some states are likely going to take a prominence that they’ve never had before.”
Michigan is among the states where abortion could be a central factor in court races this fall. One Democratic and one Republican justice are up for reelection to a court where Democrats hold a 4-3 majority. The races are technically non-partisan, even though candidates are nominated by political parties.
Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is asking the state’s high court to recognize a right to abortion in the state Constitution.
She also wants it to declare unconstitutional a 1931 near-total abortion ban that would go into effect if Roe is reversed.
‘I thought it was sickening’
Santiago Bueno and his infant, Adelaide, are among the hundreds who have gathered at Cadman Plaza in New York City today to protest for reproductive rights. Bueno explains why, as a father of a daughter, he felt it important to attend after the leaked Supreme Court opinion that would reverse Roe v Wade.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she had not 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,” Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois, told the Associated Press.
The upcoming high court ruling in a case from Mississippi stands to energize voters, potentially shaping the upcoming midterm elections.
Kimmons, 46, said she believes the focus needs to be on those races. “We have to vote in pro-choice politicians because women’s lives depend on it,” she said.
‘Roe is really the floor ... it has not been easy for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to get access’
Nimmi Penmatsa and Becca Asaki are at Cadman Plaza this Saturday morning, as organizers with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Both said that people within the AAPI community faced challenges accessing reproductive health services. Overturning Roe would only make things worse, they said.
“We are at a really critical time in our country,” said Penmatsa, 26. “We are facing the very real possibility of losing our right to our bodily autonomy.”
“I’m part of the AAPI community. We face so many barriers when it comes to abortion--language barriers, cultural stigma,” Penmatsa said. “I fear that what will happen if Roe is overturned ... we’re going to create an environment where people will have no place to go.”
And absent access to safe reproductive health services, Penmatsa said, people will seek out potentially life threatening solutions.
“Roe has really been the floor,” said Asaki, 35. “It has not always been the reality for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to access our full abortion rights.
“We have been fighting to expand our abortion access,” Asaki said, explaining that a Roe reversal “would be immediately detrimental to our ability to access abortion.”
There are lots of strong images and videos coming out from the protests, here’s a selection from Charlottesville, Virginia:
‘I’m here for my friend, and all women’
Women gathering in New York city, where multiple protests are planned, are talking about what is motivating them to be part of Saturday’s actions.
‘What direction is the US moving towards with that decision?’
Julie Kinsella traveled to Brooklyn from Saratoga Springs, New York to participate in Saturday’s demonstration, explaining that she felt “outrage” and “anger” when news broke about the draft opinion.
“This is to stop things from happening,” explained Kinsella, 35, of why she decided to protest. “We have made so much progress up until this point. I would just hate to see us backtrack and fight for what we already have right now.”
Kinsella, an educator, described her reaction to the draftthe leaked opinion suggests that the US supreme court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. “How can they take away what I feel is a human right from us?” Kinsella said. “It just made me think: What direction is the US moving toward with that decision?”
Kinsella said this is her first time protesting.”In the last five, 10 years, I’ve seen many things that anger me,” she said. “I can’t keep sitting back.”
Conservative justice Clarence Thomas has called the leak of the supreme court abortion draft “tremendously bad.”
“What happened at the court was tremendously bad,” Thomas, 73, said in a dialog at a conference of conservative and libertarian thinkers in Dallas.
“I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them...And then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized, what we’re going to have as a country,” he said.
The comments came one week after the justice said he feared that the judicial system will come under threat if people are unwilling to “live with outcomes we don’t agree with” and that recent events at the apex court might be “one symptom of that”.
Protesters gather in New York: ‘This has been coming’
By 10am local time, reproductive rights advocates started arriving at Cadman Plaza, in Brooklyn, New York City, to prepare for a demonstration scheduled for noon.
Organizer Jillian White is among them. “I’m deeply concerned about the erosion of our rights,” White, 35, told The Guardian. “I feel like it’s important to show up and do everything that I can.”
Demonstrators are gathering at the park as the US supreme court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the watershed 1973 decision which made abortion legal. On 2 May, a draft decision leaked to Politico showed that five conservative justices on the nine-judge panel had voted to overturn the decision.
“I think I was surprised about the leak, not about its contents,” White said. “This has been coming for a very long time. My heart hurt, but I wasn’t surprised.”
Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s coverage of Saturday’s abortion rallies that are set to take place across the nation.
We will be covering it all live and have reporters at some of the main protest sites, including Washington DC, New York City and Los Angeles.
With the US supreme court apparently poised to overturn the 1973 landmark decision which made abortion legal, hundreds of thousands of people across America are planning to take to the streets to protest the looming decision.
More than 380 events are set from Maine to Hawaii, with the largest gatherings expected in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and other big cities, organizers said.
In the nation’s capital, activists planned to gather at the Washington Monument before marching to the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by a security fence.
The demonstrations come after the leak on 2 May of a draft opinion showing five conservatives on the nine-justice supreme court had voted to reverse their predecessors’ ruling in Roe v Wade nearly 50 years ago.
Unless the provisional ruling is changed substantially before becoming final, abortion would be outlawed essentially immediately in more than half of US states.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that for the women of this country, this will be a summer of rage,” said Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March.