NEW YORK: Thousands of activists who flooded streets across the United States on Saturday (May 14) in a national day of action calling for safe and legal access to abortion, chanting, banging drums and brandishing placards.
The mass demonstrations came in response to a leaked draft opinion showing that the conservative majority of the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing nationwide access to abortion.
“No one has the right to make a decision about someone else’s body,” said Hanna Williamson, 20, who drove three hours to join several thousand protesters in Washington.
Thousands more people gathered in a central plaza in Brooklyn, New York, to hold a giant pink banner that read, “Our bodies. Our future. Our abortions”.
The protesters, which included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other influential Democrats, were of all genders and ages, and many wore green, a symbolic color of abortion rights activism.
“We will keep fighting until we win,” Schumer told AFP. “America is on our side.”
Allison Easter, 58, called the turnout “encouraging”.
“There are so many young people, so many mothers carrying their babies, so many people with their husbands or boyfriends, so many men – so many different types of people supporting this cause,” she told AFP.
She said the political push to limit or ban abortion is “about power and control.”
“There are a lot of people who have very traditional values and are afraid of women being able to make decisions about their own bodies,” Easter said as crowds of protesters poured into lower Manhattan.
“I know there are people who think it’s about religion, but if you look at what they’ve done in the name of religion, that’s not true.”
“CONTRARY TO OUR FOUNDATION”
Thousands of people also gathered in Texas and Kentucky, with smaller gatherings in other parts of the country.
“This is a group of people in this country who are working to dismantle 60 years of civil rights and civil liberties in the United States,” Linda Sarsour, a prominent political activist, told AFP in New York.
“We respect the right of every human being to be independent of their religious beliefs or opinions on an issue such as abortion,” she continued.
“We want you to know you can do it — and continue to provide people with access to safe, affordable women’s reproductive rights.”
The leak of the draft statement sparked anger over the possible rollback of abortion rights ahead of key midterm elections in November, when control of both chambers of Congress is at stake.
Democrats have been pushing to enshrine abortion rights in federal law in a bid to nail Republicans on the contentious issue ahead of the election.
The Women’s Health Protection Act passed by the House would ensure that health professionals have the right to perform abortions and that patients have the right to have them.
But Republicans and one Democrat in the US Senate scrambled earlier this week to push the measure forward.
Nanette Rosenbaum, 64, told AFP that she protested in New York as a teenager: “I never thought that 50 years later I would be back on the streets.”
Calling the Supreme Court “overly politicized and far too partisan,” Rosenbaum said that “in a country like America that has fought for individual rights,” restricting legal access to abortion “seems contrary to our founding.”
“I feel as strong now as I did when I was a teenager and I hope – I hope fervently – that we can make a difference.”
“WOMEN WANT TO CHOOSE”
In a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, 53 percent of voters say Roe should not be overturned, up three percentage points since last week, while 58 percent said it was important to vote for a candidate who has access to abortion supported.
Republican-controlled states have taken steps to restrict abortion rights in recent months, and an overthrow of Roe v. Wade would give them more leeway to restrict or ban the proceeding.
Abortion rights have long sparked activism, but the Supreme Court leak has prompted a surge in demonstrations, including outside judges’ homes.
The largely peaceful protests have drawn Republican criticism of court members’ privacy rights, but activists have responded by citing years of often violent protests outside abortion clinics and in the homes of doctors delivering the medical treatment.
In Washington, protesters, many dressed in pink and holding placards, marched near the Supreme Court on Saturday.
“It’s very important to be here to take a stand and really say to the people who are making these decisions that women want choices and they want the freedom to have those choices,” said Viesha Floyd, 32 .
“The reason I’m here is for these women, the future generations.”
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