By Barbara Mutnick
Tens of thousands of angry, defiant women and their supporters took to the streets in at least 380 U.S. cities and towns on Saturday, May 14, demanding that legal abortion remain the law of the land. Chants and signs insisted: “We won’t go back,” “Abortion is a human right,” and “Bans off my body.” Inspired by recent gains women and their supporters have made in decriminalizing abortion in Latin America — Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico — protesters in some cities wore green to identify with the Marea Verde (Green Wave) movement for women’s rights in those countries.
The May 14 actions were a response to the leak of Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling in a Mississippi case that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The 1973 ruling concluded that throughout the United States the only restrictions the state may impose on abortion, through the end of the second trimester of pregnancy, are those reasonably related to maternal health.
The Supreme Court will likely announce its final decision on the Mississippi case within the next two months. If the court affirms the essence of the leaked draft and overturns Roe, “trigger laws” in 13 states will ban abortions. Outright bans on abortion are still on the books in another five states from the pre-Roe era; these states could enforce such laws if Roe is overturned.
Alito argues that because the U.S. Constitution does not mention “abortion” the court should dismiss Roe v. Wade’s constitutionality. Neither is there any mention of “women” in the constitution. Many fear other legal precedents regarding contraception, consensual private sexual activity, and same-sex marriage may be on the chopping block based on the same faulty reasoning.
Three days before the May 14 demonstrations, the U.S. Senate rejected a Democratic-sponsored bill to codify the Roe decision as federal law. This surprised no one. The vote was widely understood as an electoral maneuver aimed at improving what appear to be the Democrats’ dwindling prospects in the November 2022 midterm elections.
The May 14 actions were large and spirited, but fell short of the truly massive actions that would reflect the broad majority support that still exists for a woman’s right to choose abortion.
As a recent World-Outlook editorial argued, mobilizing such a response will require a change in course for the fight to defend and extend women’s rights. “A new strategy and a new leadership are necessary,” it said. “The balance sheet on the strategy of organizations that are tied to the Democratic Party machine is in: It has failed.” (See ‘A Turning Point in Fight to Defend Women’s Right to Choose Abortion’.)
The necessary change is a political one. “We should begin with an understanding that was more widespread when the fight for women’s liberation shook U.S. politics over 50 years ago,” the editorial explained. “If women and those who support women’s rights do not fight in a consistent and uncompromising way, and independent of the capitalist parties, no one else will.”
This will require united efforts by all supporters of women’s right to control our own bodies. Ceding the leadership of this fight to Democratic politicians and organizations that look to them has resulted in posing abortion rights as largely something to be restricted, not defended. It is necessary to reassert that women’s equality is impossible without that right. On that basis broad forces can come together to renew the struggle.
The May 14 actions, called on relatively short notice, are an indication that the desire to fight exists. Reports from around the U.S. describe marches and rallies composed largely of young women shocked that a right they knew was threatened but considered their own might soon no longer exist. Older women who remember what life was like before abortion was legalized and fear the terrible consequences — disrupted lives and mutilated bodies for their daughters and granddaughters — came out in large numbers also.
World-Outlook readers who participated in the women’s rights protests sent the 11 reports that follow. The last item describes a walkout by hundreds of high school students in Denver, Colorado, on May 12, two days before the nationwide protests. In addition to the actions outlined below, marches and rallies each involving thousands took place on May 14 in a number of cities in Texas, Florida, and other states, as well as Washington, DC, the country’s capital.
New York City
By Barbara Mutnick
Many New Yorkers wore green shirts, neck or headbands, in a show of international solidarity with our compañeras who have been fighting to decriminalize abortion in many Latin American countries. Planned Parenthood and Women’s March co-sponsored one action; protesters met in Brooklyn and marched over the Brooklyn Bridge. Marchers filled the span of the bridge, and then Foley Square in downtown Manhattan.
The majority were young women. But the crowd was truly intergenerational, including older women, many children, men, and young families. Unfortunately, there was little presence or involvement by trade unions with the exception of the City University of NY faculty union PSC-CUNY.
Protesters estimated the crowd at 7,000 at that action. Another demonstration of about 3,000 took place in Union Square. Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights! sponsored this protest. After speeches, a contingent from that rally marched further downtown to join up with the Foley Square rally.
Demonstrators chanted, pumped their fists in the air, and held up a myriad of messages on signs and banners. “A legal abortion saved my life” read a hand-lettered message that an older woman held high (who never put it down); nearby a very young woman held up another handmade sign — “Boss of my Body,” with a smaller one attached, “Forward not Backward.”
There were also signs advocating the dead-end strategy of electing Democrats to win back abortion rights. One man, for example, carried a sign that read, “First we march then we November.”
A DJ performed disco music during much of the rally. Many demonstrators expected speakers, of which there were few. Protesters were angry and determined as they marched. They did not come to party but to learn, share solidarity, and find a direction forward. The failure to meet that need depoliticized the end of the action.
At one point, though, a rally chairperson said accurately that the attack on abortion rights had been coming at us for a long time from Democrats as well as Republicans. “Let’s give them all a resounding ‘boo,’ ” she cried. The crowd readily responded with full-throated jeers.
There were also brief greetings from an Argentine woman who had taken part in the abortion rights movement there. A highlight of the entertainment was Fogo Azul, a large all-female Brazilian drumming group that kept spirits high during the march.
By Howard Petrick
There were two actions in San Francisco on May 14, the major one being a march from the Civic Center down Market Street to the Embarcadero. Organizers and local news outlets estimated the crowd at about 10,000. Organized by the local Women’s March, it had no rally at either the beginning or end of the march. (Hard to get local Democrat officeholders to defend their lack of support for women’s rights over the last 50 years?)
The second action took place an hour after the first march. Rise UP 4 Abortion Rights! organized this protest, which attracted about 200 people. It did have what I thought was a good creative chant:
A baby’s not a baby ‘til it comes out…
That’s what birthdays are all about!
By Mark Friedman
More than 10,000 supporters of abortion rights rallied here as part of national actions on May 14. Other protests in California took place in San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Long Beach, Pasadena, and a host of smaller cities. La Opinión reported protests in 430 cities across the country.
Sponsored by Planned Parenthood and Women’s March, and endorsed by local groups, the overwhelmingly young and heavily Latina crowd was loud and vocal. “Get your hands off my uterus,” “We shall not go back to illegal, unsafe abortions,” “My body, my choice,” and “Not the church, not the state, women will control our fate” read some of the hundreds of handmade signs.
Young women carried coat hangers with the lettering “Never Again,” referring to their use in back-alley abortions before Roe became law. Many participants were veterans of the battles that led to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that opened the way for legal abortions.
The rally featured a parade of Democratic politicians. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, mayoral candidate Karen Bass, and others repeated the dead-end advice of backing Democrats, “Vote blue, no matter who they are.” There were no other initiatives proposed.
One speaker did call attention to the fact that U.S. president Joe Biden voted for the Hyde Amendment, which cut federal funds for abortion services, and backed that anti-woman legislation for decades.
Celebrity women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred told the crowd about her own “back-alley abortion” as a young woman after she became pregnant from rape at gunpoint before Roe. “I almost died,” she recounted. “I was left in a bathtub in a pool of my own blood, hemorrhaging.”
Los Angeles Hands Off Cuba Committee members, who had just returned from Cuba’s May Day march and international solidarity conference, staffed a table with a large banner reading: “End the Blockade of Cuba.” They distributed flyers calling for an end to the U.S. blockade against Cuba and building a May 21 report-back meeting. The flyers documented the gains of women under the Cuban Revolution, where abortion has been free and legal for 60 years.
“There were no proposals to go forward, except to vote, which is not a strategy to protect women’s rights,” said Diana Cervantes, who staffed the Cuba solidarity table. “It is frustrating as a young Latina to keep hearing these politicians’ promises and yet they do nothing to improve women’s lives. Cuba was such a difference.”
By Cathy Gutekanst
About 5,000 – 7,000 people attended a rally and march in Chicago on May 14 to call for “Bans Off Our Bodies.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, National Organization for Women, Chicago Abortion Fund, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights!, Illinois AFSCME, Chicago for Abortion Rights, and SEIU Healthcare Division were among the sponsoring organizations.
Elected officials and faith leaders were among the speakers, including U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Amy Eshleman, the wife of Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot. These speakers called on participants to donate money to abortion funds and to support pro-choice candidates in upcoming elections. They reminded the crowd that Illinois codified the right to abortion in state law in 2019, and that Illinois facilities can serve women from out of state.
Other speakers, including Gina Rozman-Wendle of Chicago NOW and Qudsayyiah Sharyif of the Chicago Abortion Fund, called on protesters to continue the fight for abortion rights in the streets. They warned that the Supreme Court has opened the door to more attacks on our rights.
The crowd marched down Washington St. to Chicago’s downtown Loop district. At one point along the way, participants stopped in front of Family Planning Associates, an abortion clinic in the Loop. Marchers cheered the clinic escorts, part of the Clinic Vest Project, who are there every Saturday to escort patients into the facility. “Abortion is healthcare, healthcare is a right,” protesters chanted. They called out “Thank You!” to the clinic escorts, many of whom were visibly moved to tears.
Chicago NOW and Chicago for Abortion Rights have called on pro-choice activists to meet at 5:30 p.m. in Chicago’s Federal Plaza on the day the Supreme Court releases its decision on abortion.
By Duane Stilwell
Thousands took part in a national call to action here to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s potential repeal of Roe and further erosion of reproductive rights. The crowd was mostly young and female. It also included veterans of the fight for abortion rights half a century ago, many of whom brought members of their families. The crowd was representative of Arizona today, with large numbers of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos. Many of the handmade signs were in Spanish.
The Arizona state Capitol rang with chants of “bans off our bodies!” Hundreds held signs that read, “Abortion is healthcare,” “My grandmother already fought for this,” “My body is not a political playground,” and “Not your body, not your choice.”
A few dozen counter-protesters who support the repeal of Roe were also present and used bullhorns to attract attention, but the disciplined and determined pro-choice crowd ignored them.
Citing the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, Brittany Fonteno, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, told the rally: “This leak makes it clear that the Supreme Court is poised to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, and what we know is that this outcome is as dangerous as it is unprecedented.”
Several speakers recounted their own experiences obtaining an abortion. Senator Raquel Teran and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs addressed the rally, as well as representatives of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Arizona. Many speakers emphasized that the majority of Arizonans support the right to have a safe and legal abortion
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill in March banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy under nearly every circumstance, with no exemptions for victims of rape or incest. Doctors who perform the procedure after 15 weeks could face a Class 6 felony and have their medical licenses suspended.
By Geoff Mirelowitz
A spirited rally to defend a woman’s right to choose abortion drew several thousand people to Cal Anderson Park in Seattle on May 14. Throughout the day, a wide range of speakers explained the devastating consequences of the coming Supreme Court decision scrapping the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The need to respond was clear to all. An all-women’s brass band closed their set with a song with the loud refrain: “You cannot take my rights away from me!”
Two women walked together, one holding a sign that read, “I had an abortion.” The other’s sign read, “I had one too.” The first explained to a radio reporter, “More women will die.”
Women of all generations participated, along with many men. Young women, especially, including young girls who attended with mothers and fathers, provided youthful energy and determination.
By Marty Boyers
More than 1,000 supporters of women’s rights came together at a “Bans Off Our Bodies” march on May 14 at the City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tracy Baton of Women’s March Pittsburgh chaired the opening rally. It featured Andrea Glickman of the National Council of Jewish Women, Reverend Michelle P. Ellison of the Black Political Empowerment Project, a letter from Laura Horowitz, an escort at a local clinic, and Pittsburgh mayor Ed Gainey.
Popular chants included, “Bans Off Our Bodies,” “My Body, My Choice – Her Body, Her Choice,” and “Abortion is Health Care.” People from a good variety of ages and backgrounds participated in the march, from high school students to young adults, to veterans of the 1970s mobilizations that led to the legalization of abortion.
Although there is no doubt that union members were at the rally — there is a quite lively organizing drive at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s huge hospital complex — I did not see any signs from any union, and no trade union representatives were introduced.
With Pennsylvania’s primaries coming up May 17, there were many appeals to vote, on that date and in the November general election. The march concluded at a downtown park, where rally organizers distributed voter registration information.
St. Paul, Minnesota
By Sandi Sherman
Abortions rights supporters jammed a street next to the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, one of the hundreds of “Bans Off Our Bodies” protests nationwide on May 14 in response to a leaked draft opinion showing that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Hundreds of protesters filled a 150-yard length of Charles Avenue from curb to curb, holding up signs reading, “Abort the Court” and “Against abortion? Get a vasectomy.” Protesters chanted: “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” They listened to speakers that included both of Minnesota’s U.S. senators.
It was hard to hear the speakers, as the rally was very packed. The crowd was very young. I wore a chestful of buttons from past fights to defend women’s right to choose abortion and got a lot of positive feedback from women, young and old.
Albany, New York
By Argiris Malapanis
Chanting, “Bans off our bodies,” hundreds of demonstrators lined Central Avenue in Albany, New York, on May 14. Similar actions to defend women’s right to choose abortion took place throughout New York’s Capital Region, including in nearby Hudson and Troy. The crowd included young women. Most participants, though, were veterans of the movement to defend women’s right to choose.
Passersby honked car horns and chanted along with demonstrators. “I feel like everything that we have worked for so hard is threatened with where we are right now, and we need to keep going,” said Christine Curley, one of the protesters. “We’re going to continue to fight and they’re never going to see us coming. We are going to fight until our last breath and get what we need as equal rights.”
“We are coming together to stand together and say that what the Supreme Court is poised to do, which is to overturn Roe, effectively cutting off abortion access to 26 states in the country, is unacceptable and if everyone isn’t free then none of us are free,” said Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood CEO Chelly Hegan.
“It’s really emotional to think that my daughter isn’t going to have the same rights that I had in the last decade. And it’s just unfathomable, frankly,” Galen Joseph-Hunter, who attended the Hudson rally, told Spectrum News.
Joseph-Hunter brought her daughter, Echo, to Saturday’s rally of about 200 people. “We are taking a step backward with this, and that’s insane,” Echo said. “The younger generation should show up because it’s affecting us.”
Albuquerque, New Mexico
By Yvonne Hayes
Below is a photo from the rally held May 14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in defense of a woman’s right to choose. It was one of at least four events in the state. The crowd gathered at Tiguex Park in Old Town and numbered about 500, including a mix of women’s rights veterans and younger activists.
By Mike Maloney
Students from more than a dozen high schools throughout the Denver metro area walked out of school Thursday morning, May 12, to protest the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that shows a majority of justices support overturning Roe v. Wade, The Denver Channel news reported.
Students from six Jefferson County high schools, several Denver Public Schools campuses, and Aurora Public Schools walked out of class and protested in different locations.
“It is a pretty big deal because it affects both our bodily autonomy and our right to privacy,” Elizabeth Swanson, a Lakewood High School sophomore, told TV Channel 7.
Swanson said she chose to take part in the demonstration to show that young people are very concerned about the prospect of abortion becoming even more restricted.
“It’s all about us being able to shape the future and not having our parents and the Supreme Court and everybody else dictate what we can do,” Swanson said.
Categories: Women's Rights