By Charlotte Molitoris
Last month, the most restrictive abortion bill to pass in the United States went into effect in Texas. In protest, thousands of people marched at rallies in more than 650 locations in all 50 states on Saturday, Oct. 2. The largest gathering — more than 120,000 people — took place in Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, D.C.. The rally was followed by a march to the Supreme Court of the United States.
According to Women’s March, the organization behind Rally for Abortion Justice, the event was timed to coincide with the start of the Supreme Court’s newest session on Monday, Oct. 4. The court refused to hear arguments against the Texas law, allowing the law, which was passed in May, to take effect in September. According to the law, anyone who aids, assists with or performs an abortion in Texas after the six-week mark of pregnancy can be sued by any citizen of the state.
“The law, a near-total ban on abortions, includes several provisions that experts say tilt the scale toward plaintiffs, including protecting serial plaintiffs who could file dozens or hundreds of cases, incentivizing civilians to sue with a $10,000 cash reward if successful and removing defendants’ ability to recoup their legal fees,” writes Erin Douglas and Carla Astudillo in the Texas Tribune. “If survivors of rape become pregnant and seek an abortion, those procedures could become the object of lawsuits.”
As organizers of the Women’s March say, “Simply put: We are witnessing the most dire threat to abortion access in our lifetime.”
The rally kicked off at 10 a.m. with a faith gathering sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women. The Black Feminist Future Squad met next at 10:30 a.m. for speeches, support and inspiration. At noon, the rally began, hosted by Latina comedian and activist Christela Alonzo. She introduced a variety of celebrity guest speakers including Schuyler Bailar and Busy Philipps. Each speaker shared personal stories of their own experiences with abortion and reproductive rights. Speakers also emphasized the immediacy of the need for abortion justice, as the conservative court will have the opportunity to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States in 1973.
The enthusiastic crowd ranged in age from babies to senior citizens, and most people carried signs or wore pins or t-shirts supporting justice for abortion rights. One sign read, “In Texas, they don’t call 911. Unless it’s to turn in a terrified teenager with an unplanned pregnancy.” Another read, “Justice has not changed since 1973, just the Justices. Save Roe v. Wade.”
A small group of anti-abortion protestors gathered across the street from the rally. The police, including a mounted unit, keep the two groups separated.
Following the rally, the abortion justice protestors marched to the Supreme Court, located on First Street. Chants including, “My body, my choice,” could be heard along the way. At the Supreme Court, the marchers were met with another group of anti-abortion activists and there were several tense moments. Police, in riot gear, had to regain control of the crowd.