By Terrance Turner
May 14, 2022
Pro-choice activists gathered in the nation’s capital and across the country today to protest a looming ban on abortion nationwide. Over 300 events took place in Chicago, New York City, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, and beyond. According to USA Today, groups including the Women’s March, the political action committee MoveOn, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union organized the events.
“We’re coming together with a powerful message for those who wish to control our bodies and our futures: Keep your bans off our bodies,” said Planned Parenthood organizing director Brianna Twofoot.
More than 15,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D.C., according to a permit by the National Park Service. (17,000 were expected, according to Vanity Fair.) D.C. protesters gathered at noon on the National Mall, per the Washington Post. They met on the northeast side of the Washington Monument before marching at 2 pm to the Supreme Court (which is now blocked by a security fence).
Last week, an initial draft of a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO. The draft indicates that the Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that ensured a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Alito’s majority opinion (he was joined by Justices Thomas, Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Gorsuch) declared that the decision ”was egregiously wrong from the start” and must be overturned.
In response, more than 380 events began across the country. At the D.C. event, Kelley Robinson, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, took the stage first and said that abortion rights are under attack. “We are here because these folks are trying to kick us out of the constitution and take away a constitutional right we’ve had for the last 50 years,” Robinson said. “We are here to show them that we are the majority.”
In New York City, a rally was formed at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. Many gathered in Brooklyn, then walked across the bridge to Manhattan. A group of high school students stood atop a monument, wearing red-stained pants and holding signs with the names of women who died from unsafe abortions.
In Chicago, a protest at Union Park on the Near West Side held several thousand demonstrators who carried signs and chanted, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Those present included Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Stratton said that as a mother of four daughters, she fought for them to have more rights not fewer. “Here in Illinois,” Stratton said, “we trust women.”
Stratton said the rally was about economic and racial justice as much as it was about abortion rights. She told the crowd that abortion should be safe, legal and accessible and to take action — to not just march today but to vote in November for candidates who support abortion rights.
Also present was retired marketer Sue Brady. “This is just the beginning,” said Brady, 61. “Everything else is up for grabs.” The Mount Prospect resident carried a sign that read “Next up: No birth control, no same sex marriage, no mixed race marriage, no Brown vs. Board of Education.”
In Orange County, organizers expected between 4,000-5,000 attendees at a 10 a.m. rally at Centennial Park in Santa Ana. Speakers will include Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, according to ABC 7 Los Angeles. There were also rallies at Pasadena City Hall at 8 am, the U.S. Courthouse in downtown LA at 9 am, and the Harvey Milk Promenade Park in Long Beach at 10 am.
In Los Angeles, a rally began at 10 am outside City Hall. Speakers included Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-L.A.) Also present were Planned Parenthood Federation President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson and Planned Parenthood CEO Sue Dunlap, according to Los Angeles affiliate KABC.
According to the Guardian, Saturday’s rally in L.A. 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, adding: “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.”
“I can’t work in Texas anymore,” said actress Lisa Ann Walter (of “Abbott Elementary”), referencing the restrictive anti-abortion bill in the state. Walter told Variety that she is working with SAG-AFTRA to inform its members of the reproductive health laws in each state. “We won’t quit until women are guaranteed autonomy all over this country.”
“Abortion is essential healthcare,” said talk show host and actress Ricki Lake.
In Austin, TX, protesters gathered at the Texas Capitol. According to NBC’s Austin affiliate KXAN, roughly 3,500 people attended a rally that started at 9;30 am at the Texas AFL-CLO, located at 1106 Lavaca St. They then made their way to the Capitol at 11 am. The march was coordinated by the Travis County Democratic Party in partnership with Planned Parenthood TX voters.
A rally in Houston was organized by the Women’s March in partnership with Planned Parenthood. Demonstrators gathered at City Hall, per KHOU. “They say no choice, we say pro-choice,” chanted the group as they made their way down Walker Street.
Rallygoer Ann McCormick was on the front lines of the Roe v. Wade protests in the 70’s. She said history is repeating itself. “It’s disgusting, it’s demoralizing,” she said. “It’s like you can’t look away for a minute.”
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hundreds of abortion rights supporters lined several blocks in front of the federal courthouse, drawing continual honks of support from motorists, per the Washington Post. The boisterous demonstrators chanted “Abortion is health care!” while carrying homemade signs such as “No Church Rule in USA” and “Women are not Government Property.”
Standing under Florida’s blazing midday sun, many of the demonstrators said they viewed Saturday’s protest as just the start of a long battle to protect access to abortion in the state. Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill banning abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy, and many of the demonstrators said they will now mobilize to try to defeat his reelection bid in November.