Women marched by the thousands Saturday outside the Supreme Court, the Texas Capitol and cities across the United States to protest the state’s growing restrictions on abortion and to advocate for the maintenance of a constitutional right to the procedure.
The 660 protests across the United States were largely sparked by a Texas law that bans abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy. The measure, which came into force last month, is the most restrictive in the country.
“No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this is a dark time,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, told the crowd at the Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington.
In the Texas capital of Austin, hundreds of people gathered in the sweltering heat to denounce the so-called “heartbeat” law signed by Governor Greg Abbott. It prohibits abortion after detection of cardiac activity in the embryo, usually around six weeks. That’s before most women know they’re pregnant and before 85-90% of all abortions are performed, experts say.
The law relies on ordinary citizens to enforce the ban, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest, rewarding them at least US$10,000 if they successfully prosecute anyone who helped provide an abortion illegal.
Some of the protesters said the law would backfire on lawmakers. “I think more people believe in the issue of providing safe abortions than our legislature realizes,” said Andrea Roberts, 49, a preschool principal in Austin.
“Abort Abbott” appeared on several protesters’ placards and T-shirts, while others featured the Texas state slogan, “Come and Take It” alongside a drawing of wombs.
Protestors in Washington marched to the U.S. Supreme Court two days before the court is due to reconvene for a session in which justices will consider a Mississippi case that could allow them to overturn rights to the abortion established in the landmark 1973 case of Roe v. Wade.
If the court overturns the precedent, access to abortion would no longer be constitutionally protected, leaving states free to prohibit, limit, or allow it without restriction.
The judges, in a 5-4 decision on Sept. 1, have already denied a request by abortion and women’s health providers to block enforcement of the Texas law.
“It’s cruel and it’s definitely not Christian,” Kenya Martin of the nonprofit Abortion Care Network told several thousand protesters in Washington.
Under sunny skies, protesters carried signs that read: “Forbidden my body”, “Get out of my box” and “Keep your rosaries out of my ovaries”.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Katy Allen, a 67-year-old university researcher from Rochester, New York. “It’s the tyranny of the minority.”
About two dozen counter-protesters also showed up to make their case for anti-abortion laws.
“We want to call on everyone to respect life,” said Albert Stecklein, a 56-year-old business administrator from Rockville, Maryland. “The child in the womb deserves no less respect and dignity than you or me.”
Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, said the number of marches would be the second to the group’s first protest, which mobilized millions around the world to rally against former President Donald Trump the day after his inauguration in 2017.
A rally and march in New York drew thousands of protesters, including actresses Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence.
Abortion rights advocates and the US Department of Justice have challenged the Texas law in state and federal courts, arguing that it violates Roe v. Wade.
A federal judge in Austin on Friday heard the Justice Department’s request to temporarily block the law while its constitutionality is challenged.