Protesters begin gathering as nationwide ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rallies for abortion rights start Saturday

WASHINGTON – Protesters are gathering in the nation’s capital, Texas, New York, Illinois and other states on Saturday to protest after a Supreme Court leaked draft opinion shows the court may overturn the nearly 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

More than 380 “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstrations for abortion rights are planned, with the largest expected in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, according to organizers. Sponsors of the daylong event include Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Planned Parenthood began organizing the nationwide “day of action” months before a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision leaked sparking celebrations from anti-abortion demonstrators and protests outside the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by a security fence, and the Justice’s homes.

The protests come days after the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have enshrined a nationwide right to abortion.

In Austin, demonstrators stood at the steps of the Texas Capitol Building banging drums, singing and repeating chants like “abortion is a human right,” KVUE reported. In downtown Binghamton, N.Y., demonstrators brandished signs featuring the event’s central motto, “Bans Off Our Bodies” and wire metal coat hangers, according to WBNG 12 reported. 

In Washington, abortion rights supporters gathered near the Washington Monument said they doubted the conservative Supreme Court would change course and vote to uphold Roe vs. Wade. But they said they wanted their voices heard.

“We can put some pressure on them,” said Sandra Harrington, 61, a retired public education administrator from Warrenton, Va. “I, unfortunately, do think it’s a done deal, and I’m terribly sad about that.”

Demonstrators gathered under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle. Rain is forecast throughout the afternoon, with temperatures around 70 degrees. As a result, many attendees wore ponchos and carried umbrellas.

Demonstrators gather during the 'Bans off our Bodies' abortion rights rally in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

More than 15,000 protesters are expected to attend the rally in downtown Washington, according to a permit filed with the National Park Service. 

“I’m here for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter,” said Jen Giordano, 51, a salesperson who traveled from Mt. Pleasant, S.C., on Saturday morning to attend the D.C. rally.

Supporters wearing pro-Roe t-shirts gathered at the stage where speakers are scheduled to address the crowd shortly after noon. Demonstrators are set to then march down Constitution Avenue more than 15 blocks to the Supreme Court building itself to make a direct appeal on the abortion issue. 

Demonstrators march in New York City during the 'Bans off our Bodies' abortion rights rally on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

While organizers handed out mass manufactured signs with generic messages – “Bans Off Our Bodies,” “How Dare They” – many demonstrators made their own placards with more personal and pungent messages including “Abort SCOTUS” and “You Can’t Ban Abortions, You Can Only Ban Safe Abortions.”

Deborah Stoll, 70, a retired clinical psychologist from Takoma Park, Maryland, carried a hand-made sign that read “The Hardest Decision A Woman Can Make Isn’t Yours.”

A growing crowd has also formed in Cleveland, Ohio chanting phrases including “O-H-I-O abortion bans have got to go’ according to images of the scene shared on social media.

Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend a rally in Chicago, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.

“I was already starting to self harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at nyanceybra@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg

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