On both sides of US abortion debate, protesters vow to ‘fight’

Crowds have been gathering since the leak of a draft ruling suggesting the court is poised to overturn the nationwide right to an abortion

SOUTH BEND, IN – MAY 17: Demonstrators of both sides of the abortion debate compete for attention near the campus of Notre Dame University on May 17, 2009 in South Bend, Indiana. Activists from around the country have gathered in South Bend to protest or defend the university’s decision to invite President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights, to deliver the commencement address today and to award him an honorary degree. Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

Shouts of “My body! My choice!” clashed with “Abortion is violence” as rival demonstrators for and against abortion rights faced off outside the US Supreme Court for a second day on Tuesday. Crowds have been gathering in front of the Washington building since the leak of a draft ruling suggesting the court is poised to overturn the nationwide right to an abortion, something feared or hoped for by those on either side of the hot-button issue in the United States. 

“I’ll fight it with every breath I have,” said Lynn Hart, a retired grandmother of four in her 70s, who said she had an abortion as a teenager, before the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade made the procedure a constitutionally protected right.

She had another abortion when it was legal, decision she and her husband made together and one she is “horrified” could be “stripped away from my grandsons and granddaughters.”

Nearby a young woman crouched on her knees as she stamped sheet after sheet of paper with “My body, my choice,” before taping them to wire hangers on a fence, in reference to the dangerous methods used in some illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade.

Mikaela, a 20-year-old from Texas, said she had come “because I don’t think the government should have any say over anything that I choose to do with my body.”

“Texas and Oklahoma have some of the strictest abortion laws in America. And so I think we’ve been kind of sounding the alarm for a while longer than the rest of the places,” she said. 

But for a small, vocal crowd decked out in bright capes and stick-on gemstones, banging on black buckets, the draft decision is what they’ve been hoping for.

Kristin Monaghan, a 30-year-old anti-abortion activist from Seattle who describes herself as a long-time “left-wing feminist pro-lifer” and an atheist, said she’d been skeptical that the conservative-majority court would overturn Roe v. Wade, but now “they’re showing themselves a little bit.”

A fellow demonstrator with the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising group, 22-year-old Archie Smith said “there’s still a lot of work to be done,” but that he was “hoping the justices will side with life.” 

‘Fight is not over’

As the group chanted, sang and drummed, other protesters stood in their midst holding signs reading “Catholics support abortion access.” On an issue often painted as pitting anti-abortion religious conservatives against secular liberals in favor of abortion rights, a spokesman for the organization Catholics for Choice said they came out to “give a voice” to the Catholic majority.

“It’s understandable that people would have that misperception about Catholic support for abortion, but we’re here to just state the truth, which is that most Catholics are pro-choice,” the group’s press secretary John Becker told AFP.

Becker emphasized the leaked document was a draft, saying, “No matter what the court decides in June this fight is not over.”

US President Joe Biden has already weighed in on the politically explosive issue, urging voters to elect officials who back abortion rights and calling on Congress to enshrine legal abortion in US law, warning that the ruling, if finalized, would have implications beyond abortion.

It’s a view shared by one protester, 37-year-old Jen Miller, who worried that the draft ruling could “hurt a lot of marginalized communities.”

“This is very much a litmus test of where our country is going to go,” said Miller, who works in a bookstore in northern Virginia.

As the noisy crowd swelled to more than 1,000 people, including many members of the media, she showed her anger silently, leaning against a barrier with her back to the imposing marble steps of the country’s highest court, one finger up.

“I’m just flicking off the Supreme Court. It just makes me feel better.”

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