Reproductive rights supporters rally across the country
Thousands of reproductive rights supporters are gathering Saturday at rallies across the country following the leak this month of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.
The draft opinion has sparked a wave of protests. More than 100 Bans off Our Bodies rallies are set to take place Saturday across the United States, from Hawaii, to California to Oklahoma to Washington, D.C.
If Roe v. Wade were overturned, at least 26 states are "certain or likely" to ban abortions, according to data from Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. That could affect 36 million women, in addition to more people who can become pregnant, Planned Parenthood says.
In Washington, activists have been rallying at the Supreme Court steps since the night the draft opinion was leaked. As many as 17,000 people are expected on the National Mall for the Bans off Our Bodies demonstration, NBC4 Washington reported.
Ann Hoffman, 79, was among those on the National Mall on Saturday. She tells NPR she has been involved in advocating for abortion rights since the 1970s. In Hoffman's eyes, marching might not make a difference to the Supreme Court, but it can show "that people really care."
"It's only the most important issue there is right now because if the leaked opinion becomes the final opinion," she said, "it could affect all kinds of rights — not just the right of choice but the right to health care."
Anna Lulis, a 24-year-old from Virginia, was also in the crowd. She works with Students for Life of America and was part of a small group of counterprotesters who hope Roe v. Wade is overturned.
"We wanted to make sure people knew that there was a presence out here that wasn't pro-abortion," Lulis told NPR. "The pro-life side, we wanted to show the Supreme Court justices that we're here and we support them and we hope that they make the right decision."
In New York, hundreds marched from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Isla Grant-Reyes, an 11-year-old from Brooklyn, was among abortion-rights supporters in the crowd.
"I don't want to be a 15-year-old that's pregnant," she told WNYC's Gothamist. "That's your choice, and it should be your choice. I'm here because I deserve rights."
Meanwhile in Chicago, thousands of protesters filled Union park near the city's downtown, chanting "abortion is health care" and "abortion justice."
There was a festive atmosphere and a sense of determination as people gathered at sign-up tables to volunteer with groups like Planned Parenthood of Illinois and the Chicago Abortion Fund. People carried a slew of signs: "Bans off our Bodies," "I Remember 1973" and "Against Abortion? Don't Have One"
Paula Thornton Greear, with Planned Parenthood of Illinois, was among the rally's attendees.
"Work together and refuse to let our opponents turn back the clock," she said.
Greear told the crowd they would need to do more than show up for rallies, urging people to take action by supporting abortion funds, voting and sharing "your abortion stories loudly and proudly."
Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said as a mother of four daughters, she fought for them to have more rights not fewer.
"Here in Illinois," Stratton said, "we trust women."
Stratton said the rally was about economic and racial justice as much as it was about abortion rights. She told the crowd that abortion should be safe, legal and accessible and to take action — to not just march today but to vote in November for candidates who support abortion rights.
Jessica Holcomb, a 31-year-old high school band director from Indianapolis, attended the Chicago rally with a big group of friends. Holcomb held a sign with a slogan she said she found online: "My body is not a democracy, it is an empire and I am the dictator."
"Sometimes people think they have the right to decide for you and really it should be your choice," Holcomb told NPR. "Bodily autonomy is a fundamental right and nothing should take that away from you."
Rachel O'Leary Carmona, executive director of Women's March, said the demonstrations can help build "community power."
"Our role is to try to make our voices heard," she said.