• The San Juan Daily Star

With Roe in peril, thousands gather at marches for abortion rights

Abortion rights demonstrators gather at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn before marching toward Brooklyn Bridge, Saturday, May 14, 2022.

By Madeleine Ngo and Lola Fadulu

In the nation’s capital, protesters marched to the Supreme Court in the rain while chanting “We will not go back” and “Abortion is a human right.” In New York, thousands crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. And in Los Angeles, demonstrators filled a park near City Hall to show their support for abortion rights.

Thousands of protesters converged in cities across the country Saturday, nearly two weeks after the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Gathering near the Washington Monument, some wore shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies” and “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal.” They vowed to fight to preserve abortion rights, even as some accepted that Roe would most likely be overturned.

Colleen Lunsford, 42, a lawyer from Arlington, Virginia, brought her 5-year-old daughter, Orla. Pointing to her daughter, she said she attended the march for “her future and autonomy.”

“I’m terrified,” Lunsford said. “We did our best to elect a Democratic president and House and Senate, and this is still happening.”

More than 450 marches were set to take place in cities across the country Saturday, including Chicago, Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, according to Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, a nonprofit organization that helped coordinate the events.

Organizers had been planning a national march for abortion rights before the draft opinion leaked, but they fast-tracked Saturday’s events after the draft was published. O’Leary Carmona said she hoped the events would allow demonstrators to “build power, both civically and electorally.”

“Folks are mobilizing because they see that the hour is later than we thought,” she said.

The marches took place after the publication this month of the draft opinion, which showed that the Supreme Court appeared poised to overturn Roe, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The court’s ruling is expected in June or early July.

With midterm elections months away, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are hoping to use the issue to energize voters. Democratic senators failed Wednesday to advance legislation to guarantee abortion rights nationwide in the face of opposition from Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

In Washington, Elizabeth Moser, 34, a communications specialist from Burke, Virginia, said she hoped the marches would galvanize voters and politicians.

Although she had been planning to vote in the midterms, she said she was now also considering driving people to the polls and texting her friends to encourage them to attend other rallies in support of abortion rights.

“I’m out here trying to build a movement,” said Moser, who wore a red bandanna and held up a sign that read, “I will not go quietly back to the 1950s.”

Around 2 p.m., demonstrators began the walk to the Supreme Court as No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” blared from speakers and light rain began to fall, dampening posters.

There were few counterprotesters. One man standing on the sidewalk beside marchers condemned the demonstration and carried a black sign with flames around the edges that read, “Jesus Is Coming Very Soon.” Over the noise of protesters chanting “My body, my choice,” the man said he would “never shut up.”

In Brooklyn, thousands of abortion rights supporters gathered in Cadman Plaza Park before marching to Foley Square in lower Manhattan. Volunteers offered snacks and signs with phrases like “Stand With Black Women.”

Several elected officials led the group for a while on the way to Foley Square, including Mayor Eric Adams; Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; and Letitia James, the state attorney general. They walked behind a green banner that read: “Our Bodies Our Abortions.”

City Council member Crystal Hudson, who represents several neighborhoods in Brooklyn, said she was especially concerned about what overturning Roe would mean for low-income and Black and brown people.

“We need to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to maintain access and keep abortion legal,” Hudson said.

Khloe Rains, 35, a college student, said she was devastated and angry when she learned about the draft ruling.

“Without abortion, I would not be here,” said Rains, who stood in the plaza with her 5-

month-old daughter, Hendrix, and 3-year-old son, Jagger. At five months pregnant in November 2020, she said, she started losing large amounts of blood, forcing her medical providers to perform an abortion to save her life.

“I very much wanted my daughter,” she said, “but I was bleeding and there was nothing they could do.”

For some, protesting the draft opinion was not just about protecting the right to abortion.

Lillian Penafiel, 35, and her wife, Emi Penafiel, 44, worried about what the court’s ruling could mean for marriage equality, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.

“They’ve been very clear, especially what was written up, that our rights are going to be threatened as well, too, so that’s why we’re nervous,” said Emi Penafiel. “They’re coming after all of it.”

In Los Angeles, protesters filled Grand Park in front of City Hall and chanted phrases such as, “We won’t go back, we won’t back down!” An estimated 5,000 people were on hand.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., took the stage to lament the potential demise of Roe, vowing to fight for the right to abortion in every state.

“We will not stand by and watch while extremist politicians make rules for your body,” Padilla said. “You make the right decisions for your own body. No one else.”

Renee Chanon, 84, said she has been campaigning for women’s rights since the 1970s, when she first began protesting in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, half a century later, she said she was demonstrating against what she called a “horrifying” leaked opinion.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re still doing the same thing, but then, if you look at your history, you’ll see that it took us almost 100 years to win the right to vote,” Chanon said. “That’s just what it’s taken and what it’s going to take in our society.”

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