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Thousands Gather at Marches for Abortion Rights

The New York Times logo The New York Times 3 days ago Madeleine Ngo and Lola Fadulu
Some protesters in Washington wore shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies.” © Kenny Holston for The New York Times Some protesters in Washington wore shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies.”

WASHINGTON — In the nation’s capital, protesters marched to the Supreme Court in the rain while chanting “We will not go back” and “Abortion is a human right.” In New York, thousands crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. And in Los Angeles, demonstrators filled a park near City Hall to show their support for abortion rights.

Protesters in New York on Saturday. The Supreme Court’s ruling is not expected until June or early July. © Anna Watts for The New York Times Protesters in New York on Saturday. The Supreme Court’s ruling is not expected until June or early July.

Thousands of protesters converged in cities across the country on Saturday, nearly two weeks after the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Gathering near the Washington Monument, some wore shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies” and “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal.” They vowed to fight to preserve abortion rights, even as some accepted that Roe would most likely be overturned.

Abortion rights supporters in Chicago on Saturday, when more than 450 marches were expected to take place across the country. © Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press Abortion rights supporters in Chicago on Saturday, when more than 450 marches were expected to take place across the country.

Colleen Lunsford, 42, a lawyer from Arlington, Va., brought her 5-year-old daughter, Orla. Pointing to her daughter, she said she attended the march for “her future and autonomy.”

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“I’m terrified,” Ms. Lunsford said. “We did our best to elect a Democratic president and House and Senate, and this is still happening.”

More than 450 marches were set to take place in cities across the country on Saturday, including Chicago, Nashville, and Austin, Texas, according to Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March, a nonprofit organization that helped coordinate the events.

Protesters in front of the Supreme Court. The court’s final ruling is not expected until June or early July. © Shuran Huang for The New York Times Protesters in front of the Supreme Court. The court’s final ruling is not expected until June or early July.

Organizers had been planning a national march for abortion rights before the draft opinion leaked, but they fast-tracked Saturday’s events after the draft was published. Ms. O’Leary Carmona said she hoped the events would allow demonstrators to “build power, both civically and electorally.”

“Folks are mobilizing because they see that the hour is later than we thought,” she said.

The marches took place after the publication this month of the draft opinion, which showed that the Supreme Court appeared poised to overturn Roe, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The court’s ruling is not expected until June or early July.

A rally for abortion rights in Los Angeles drew supporters as well as anti-abortion activists. © Karla Gachet for The New York Times A rally for abortion rights in Los Angeles drew supporters as well as anti-abortion activists.

With the midterm elections months away, President Biden and congressional Democrats are hoping to use the issue to energize voters. Democratic senators failed on Wednesday to advance legislation to guarantee abortion rights nationwide in the face of opposition from Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

In Washington, Elizabeth Moser, 34, a communications specialist from Burke, Va., said she hoped the marches would galvanize voters and politicians.

Although she had been planning to vote in the midterms, she said she was now considering driving people to the polls and texting her friends to encourage them to attend other rallies in support of abortion rights.

“I’m out here trying to build a movement,” said Ms. Moser, who wore a red bandanna and held up a sign that read, “I will not go quietly back to the 1950s.”

At around 2 p.m., demonstrators began the walk to the Supreme Court as No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” blared from speakers and light rain began to fall, dampening posters.

Gazing at the crowd, Alla Stepanov, 26, a chemist who drove to the rally from Baltimore, said she was excited to see the show of solidarity. Still, she said she was not sure what the Supreme Court would ultimately decide.

“I never thought that someone like Trump would be elected,” she said. “I thought that was a joke until it wasn’t a joke. So in these recent years, I kind of don’t know what to expect. I don’t have a lot of trust.”

There were few counterprotesters. One man standing on the sidewalk beside marchers condemned the demonstration and carried a black sign with flames around the edges that read, “Jesus Is Coming Very Soon.” Over the noise of protesters chanting “My body, my choice,” the man said he would “never shut up.”

In Brooklyn, thousands of abortion rights supporters gathered in Cadman Plaza Park before marching to Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. Volunteers offered snacks and signs with phrases like “Stand With Black Women.”

Several elected officials led the group for a while on the way to Foley Square, including Mayor Eric Adams; Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; and Letitia James, the state attorney general. They walked behind a green banner that read: “Our Bodies Our Abortions.”

City Councilwoman Crystal Hudson, who represents several neighborhoods in Brooklyn, said she was especially concerned about what overturning Roe would mean for low-income and Black and brown people.

“We need to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to maintain access and keep abortion legal,” Ms. Hudson said.

Khloe Rains, 35, a college student, said she was devastated and angry when she learned about the draft ruling.

“Without abortion, I would not be here,” said Ms. Rains, who stood in the Brooklyn park with her 5-month-old daughter, Hendrix, and 3-year-old son, Jagger. At five months pregnant in November 2020, she said, she started losing large amounts of blood, forcing her medical providers to perform an abortion to save her life.

“I very much wanted my daughter,” she said, “but I was bleeding and there was nothing they could do.”

For some, protesting the draft opinion was not just about protecting the right to abortion.

Lillian Penafiel, 35, and her wife, Emi Penafiel, 44, worried about what the court’s ruling could mean for marriage equality, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and voting rights.

“They’ve been very clear, especially what was written up, that our rights are going to be threatened as well, too, so that’s why we’re nervous,” said Emi Penafiel. “They’re coming after all of it.”

Many parents came with their children. Sonia Reiter, 41, who is pregnant, brought her 5-year-old son, Casio Coleman, to the march to educate him on the importance of choice, she said.

“Casio, how did we talk about today’s protest, what’d we say?” Ms. Reiter asked her son. “If someone wants to be pregnant, they should be pregnant — and if they don’t want to be pregnant?”

“They shouldn’t,” he replied, beaming at his mother.

In Los Angeles, protesters filled Grand Park in front of City Hall and chanted phrases such as, “We won’t go back, we won’t back down!” An estimated 5,000 people were on hand.

Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, took the stage to lament the potential demise of Roe, vowing to fight for the right to abortion in every state.

“We will not stand by and watch while extremist politicians make rules for your body,” Mr. Padilla said. “You make the right decisions for your own body. No one else.”

Renee Chanon, 84, said she has been campaigning for women’s rights since the 1970s, when she first began protesting in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, half a century later, she said she was demonstrating against what she called a “horrifying” leaked opinion.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re still doing the same thing, but then, if you look at your history, you’ll see that it took us almost 100 years to win the right to vote,” Ms. Chanon said. “That’s just what it’s taken and what it’s going to take in our society.”

Madeleine Ngo reported from Washington, and Lola Fadulu from New York. Samira Asma-Sadeque contributed reporting from New York, and Seth Gilbert from Los Angeles.

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