With banners with slogans such as “my body, my choice, my right,” thousands of women demonstrated in Washington on Saturday at the start of a day of nationwide protests aimed at countering a conservative campaign to restrict access to abortions.
The perennial struggle over procedure in the United States has grown even more intense since Texas passed a law on September 1 that bans nearly all abortions, unleashing a fierce counterattack in the courts and in Congress, but with few public demonstrations until now.
Two days before the US Supreme Court, which will have the last word on the contentious issue, meets again, nearly 200 organizations have asked abortion rights advocates to make their voices heard from coast to coast.
The landmark event took place in the nation’s capital, Washington, where a crowd of all ages, mostly women but also men, gathered under sunny skies in a plaza near the White House, many in purple masks with the words “forbid my body”. ”
Protesters danced to loud pop music from loudspeakers, while activists addressed the crowd in taped interviews broadcast on big screens, and slogans such as “abortion is health care” or “abort the Texas Taliban. “They were hung on signs or painted on the bodies of protesters.
A handful of counter-protesters shouted “abortion is murder”, but there was no violence.
Later, the crowd marched on the Supreme Court, which almost 50 years ago recognized the right of women to have an abortion in its landmark Roe v. Wade.
Now the court, packed with conservative judges by former President Donald Trump, appears ready to go in the opposite direction.
“Women are human beings, we are full human beings, and we need to be treated as full human beings,” said Laura Bushwitz, a 66-year-old retired teacher from Florida, wearing a dress with portraits of women activists and politicians, like Michelle Obama. .
“We should be able to have our own choice about what we want to do with our bodies. Period,” he said. “Did you hear that, SCOTUS?” he asked, referring to the United States Supreme Court.
The court has already refused to block Texas law and has agreed to review a restrictive Mississippi law that could provide an opportunity to overturn the Roe v Wade precedent of 1973, which guaranteed the legal right to abortion until the fetus was viable. of the uterus. .
Demonstrations were planned in at least two conservative state capitals, Austin and Jackson, as well as in more than 600 cities in all 50 states. According to organizers, nearly a quarter of a million people are expected to perform across the United States.
“Together, we are joining hands to advocate for a country where abortion is not just legal, it is accessible, affordable and destigmatized,” organizers of the Rally for Abortion Justice said in a statement.
The group asked Congress to enshrine the right to abortion in federal law, to protect it from any possible reversal by the Supreme Court.
A week ago a bill to that effect was passed in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, but has no chance of being passed in the Senate where Republicans have enough votes to block it.
In 2017, a first “Women’s March” was held the day after Trump’s inauguration, gathering millions of opponents of the Republican billionaire who had been accused of sexism.
Since then, other demonstrations have not turned out as large, in part due to internal divisions over accusations of anti-Semitism directed at one of the organizers.
But that page seems to have been turned.
Saturday’s participants are a broad coalition that includes small feminist groups, community and local organizations, as well as the family planning giant, Planned Parenthood.
“We are taking to the streets once again, for the first time in (Joe) Biden’s era,” the statement said. “Because a change in the Oval Office has not stopped the politicized, perverse and patriarchal desire to regulate our bodies. If anything, it has only gotten even more intense.”
That escalation has been fueled by Trump’s appointment of three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, emboldening local conservative elected officials across the country to embark on an anti-abortion crackdown.
So far this year, 19 states have adopted 63 laws restricting access to abortions.
If the superior court repeals Roe v. Wade, all states would be free to ban or allow abortions.
That would mean that 36 million women in 26 states – nearly half of American women of reproductive age – would likely lose their legal right to abortion, according to a Planned Parenthood report released Friday.