DC Bans Off Our Bodies protest: Abortion rights supporters gather

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Protesters gathered in Washington and at hundreds of events across the country on Saturday, including in New York City, San Antonio, Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles, to rally for abortion rights.

The demonstrations come as a direct response to the leaked draft of an opinion by the Supreme Court signaling that it is positioned to overturn Roe. v. Wade, the 49-year-old decision that guaranteed a person’s constitutional right to have an abortion.

National tensions around abortion rights have ratcheted up since the leak this month. Abortion rights supporters and antiabortion advocates — sensing the arrival of a historic moment that could reshape American social and political life — have accelerated their efforts, with demonstrations by those on both sides of the issue planned for the weekend.

Abortion rights groups to rally, declaring ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’

The liberal groups that organized Saturday’s protests have designed the events as a resounding message to leaders that the majority of Americans support upholding Roe. The Senate failed to advance legislation Wednesday that would codify a constitutional right to abortion into federal law, after all 50 Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) opposed moving ahead on the bill, called the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Nonetheless, Bridget Todd, a spokesperson for UltraViolet, a gender justice group supporting women and nonbinary individuals, said Saturday’s demonstrations are pushing for the bill’s passage, as well as urging the Biden administration and elected officials in every state to protect abortion access.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Todd said. “The writing has been on the wall for so long, and folks with the power to do something really have not done a lot in terms of action.”

In Washington, generations — from babies and children to mothers and grandmothers who say they’ve been protesting for the right to an abortion for far too long — gathered on the National Mall.

They voiced anger over the wave of abortion bans and restrictions taking hold in states across the country. They waved signs with drawings of uteri and images of coat hangers, to symbolize the dangerous measures people resorted to for self-induced illegal abortions pre-Roe. They channeled the same determination not to return to an earlier time many remembered all too clearly.

The court held oral arguments in December in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on the constitutionality of a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi — a direct challenge to Roe. The disclosure of the draft opinion in the Mississippi case, first reported by Politico, indicated that at least five members of the court were poised to vote to overturn Roe.

With a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the high court, many people in favor of abortion rights are now fearful that a reversal, with consequences for millions of people, is imminent.

Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said Saturday’s D.C. protest is just one of many actions organizers plan to have this summer demanding that the right to an abortion be codified into federal law. A final decision could come any time before the court finishes its work at the end of June or early July.

“We have to see an end to the attacks on our bodies,” Carmona said. “You can expect for women to be completely ungovernable until this government starts to work for us.”

Bethany VanKampen Saravia, 39, walked through the crowd of thousands rallying on the National Mall. The sign she carried shared her story.

“I had a baby & I had an abortion,” read the white oister bordered with sparkly gold. VanKampen Saravia wanted her message to shine.

She was 19 when she had her abortion. She told her mother, who previously had shared how her own pre-Roe abortion had been a “frightening situation” that she kept secret from everyone in her life. Years later, VanKampen Saravia’s…

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