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Rage, despair, tears fill streets across nation as thousands protest Roe reversal

TODAY logo TODAY 6/25/2022 Maura Barrett and Doha Madani and Elliot Lewis and Daniella Silva and Corky Siemaszko

Reaction came fast and furious Friday after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing a constitutional right to an abortion.

Anger and dismay erupted first outside the Supreme Court in moments after the decision was announced.

Quickly, it spread eastward as devastated abortion-rights protesters across the country railed against the conservative justices who wiped away a half-century of precedent and made access to abortions all but impossible in many states.

Protests played out on the plaza in front of the federal building in downtown Chicago, outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, and across from the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, where thousands of outraged protesters carried signs and chanted “My body! My choice!” In Flint, Michigan, hundreds blocked the sidewalks in front of the Genesee County Prosecutor’s office.

“I’m expecting at least tens of thousands of people in outpourings across the country tonight,” said Texas organizer Coco Das, who is a member of the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights group.

Speaking from Austin, Das described the anger as “visceral.”

As Das spoke, police equipped with riot shields and wearing helmets were deployed to courthouses and other gathering spots across the country wherever protesters were gathering.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion rights demonstrators protest (Steve Helber / AP) © Steve Helber Abortion rights and anti-abortion rights demonstrators protest (Steve Helber / AP)

Big demonstrations were reported in Richmond, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina and Topeka, Kansas.

There were also demonstrations outside the U.S. embassies in London and Ottawa, Canada.

In New York City, thousands of protesters gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square and began marching downtown for Washington Square Park.

“Abortion is health care, health care is a right,” many in the crowd chanted.

One of the protesters was 16-year-old Anura Bracey, who was carrying a sign that read “Overturn Roe? Hell No.”

“I’m enraged,” Bracey said. “I’m terrified for what this means for birthing people in the country.”

Bracey said she feels lucky to live in a state where the right to an abortion is still protected but said she fears the Supreme Court could take aim at other rights including marriage equality.

“So I’m just here to get my rage out,” Bracey said. “I want someone to listen to us. I don’t know how much this is really going to do, but I just feel very desperate.”

Claire Alcus, 25, said she felt sick to her stomach when she learned of the ruling.

“I’m not so much concerned for myself because I have access to proper birth control,” she said. “But I just feel so horrible for women who probably share the sentiments that I have, that I’m not ready for a child that won’t have access to the kind of care that they need in order to live their lives the way that I can.”

Back in Washington, a weeping woman who asked to be only identified as Skye wept openly after the decision was announced.

“It feels like a betrayal,” Skye said. “It feels like my country doesn’t love me and appreciate my body as a woman. I can’t even chant because I can’t say anything. It hurts.”

“It feels like we’re moving backward,” she said.

Amanda Herring, who is 32 and nine months pregnant, showed up with her 1-year-old son Abraham and the words “Not Yet a Human” written in ink across her swollen belly.

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Herring, a Jewish educator who said her due date is Saturday, considers the Supreme Court ruling an infringement on her religion.

“I feel like it’s important for me to be out here and let everyone know my religion says that that life begins with the first breath,” she said. “It’s in the Torah, and it’s in the Old Testament.”

Hanna Fredeen, who was in high school in 1973 when Roe became law, said she remembers how a classmate had to travel to another country for an abortion. She said poor women in states where the procedure is now banned will be forced to get back-alley abortions or resort to doing it themselves with knitting needles.

“Women are going to die,” said another protester named Michelle. “It’s just very disappointing.”

Nearby, Lauren Handy of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising was part of a smaller crowd that was celebrating a Supreme Court decision that capped the decades-long struggle by conservatives to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.

“It’s a roller-coaster of emotion,” Handy said. “Complete and utter joy it was finally overturned.”

Handy then added, “The battle is not over.”

“The abortion industrial complex is strong in blue states, and we gotta go after them as well,” Handy said.

Now that Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land, abortion is protected in less than half of the states and in none of the U.S. territories, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Before the Supreme Court ruling was announced, Republican legislators across the South and Midwest passed “trigger laws” that would make abortion illegal the minute Roe was overturned.

Louisiana’s “trigger law” went into effect immediately, state Attorney General Jeff Landry said.

Texas was already clamping down on abortion even before the Supreme Court ruling was announced.

And in Arkansas, the state Department of Health issued a notice on Friday warning doctors that performing abortions is now a felony.

Image: Supreme Court (Jose Luis Magana / AP) © Provided by NBC News Image: Supreme Court (Jose Luis Magana / AP)

In Illinois, abortion rights are protected by the Reproductive Health Act of 2019. But abortion providers fear clinics will be swamped with people from out of state because several neighboring states have “trigger laws.”

New Jersey is another Democratic-led state that took steps to cement abortion rights ahead of the ruling when Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act.

“Make no mistake, the decision goes beyond abortion,” said Elizabeth Meyer, founder of Women’s March in New Jersey. “We may be protected in New Jersey, you know, but we’re certain that is not going to be the case elsewhere.”

Meyer said she had to break the news to her 9 and 11-year-old daughters that the constitutional right she grew up with is now gone for them.

“I’m frightened for my daughters’ futures, and what it could mean for them,” said Meyer.

Maura Barrett and Doha Madani reported from Washington D.C., Elliot Lewis from New Haven, Conn., Daniella Silva and Corky Siemaszko from New York City.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.

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