Activists showed up in support of abortion rights in response to the Supreme Court draft opinion that may overturn the landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade.
By Cassandra Nava, Editor-in-Chief
Fake blood on wire hangers. Profanity-filled messages to government officials. The frustration of thousands of abortion rights activists was palpable amidst the stiff, 90 degree Los Angeles air at a Women’s March rally last Saturday.
Across from City Hall, Grand Park’s lawn flooded with protesters as Main and Spring streets closed to accommodate the event where thousands gathered. Activists armed themselves with signs displaying phrases like, “abort the court” and “my body, my choice.” Ignited by the Supreme Court opinion leaked by Politico earlier this month, people assembled to show their support for the jeopardized Roe v. Wade case.
“We are sending a message to the world today. We are sending a message to the Supreme Court today,” said Karen Bass, mayoral candidate and representative for California's 37th congressional district. “We will not allow our country, our state or our city to go backwards. This is the day we continue and strengthen our national movement. This is the day that we share that message with the court.”
The volunteer-organized event hosted by the Women’s March foundation was just one of hundreds nationwide. People mobilized at over 450 marches on May 14, according to a post on the Women’s March official Instagram. Activists in Washington D.C. marched to the Supreme Court, which has had an eight-foot fence acting as a barrier to the building since May 5, just days after the opinion leaked.
If the nearly 50-year-old case is overturned, individual states will have the opportunity to ban abortion. So far, 26 states are certain or likely to ban the medical procedure in concurrence with Roe v. Wade’s reversal, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These “trigger laws” will have some exceptions for abortions; rape, incest or a life and death situation for the pregnant woman. Various states will also issue prison sentences to those providing abortions.
California, however, has maintained its pro-choice stance, as made evident by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s calls to maintain the status of the “reproductive freedom state.” Many speakers echoed their gratitude for the state’s position, while simultaneously calling attention to women across the nation.
“Wealthy women and well-connected women will have the resources to travel to another state to have an abortion,” said city council member Nury Martinez, “While women of color, poor women of color across this country, are going to suffer and are going to die as a consequence. We are so lucky to live in California, but we need to organize in red states.”
Of the thousands assembled in the LA rally, four individuals strongly rejected the message of the speakers. Near the police-enforced barricade just left of the stage, counterprotesters held up signs stating, “abortion is murder.” The counter protestors, part of the Official Street Preachers organization, shouted through a megaphone phrases like “baby killers” and “you will burn in hell.” According to their website, the group states that abortion is the “fruit of sin” caused by fornication.
Women’s March activists soon surrounded the religious group, covering the opening of the megaphone with signs and creating a huddle around them, in an effort to muffle their message. About 15 police officers were on standby, stepping in occasionally to separate the opposing groups.
As the protesters shouted over each other, the organized speakers did not stop in sharing their messages. Over calls of murder by the Official Street Preachers, attorney and women’s rights activist Gloria Allred spoke on her personal story of abortion. In her graphic retelling of the back alley procedure, she stated that she had to be rushed to the hospital following the life-threatening incident. Allred shared that she was cared for by a pro-life nurse, who said that she hoped the near-death experience following the abortion taught Allred a lesson.
“It did teach me a lesson, but not the one she wanted me to learn,” said the 80-year-old activist in her message to the crowd. “I want you — for me, you, the people you never met before — I want you to vote. Vote as though your lives depend on it — because they do.”
Peeling off from the main event, organizers of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights started a march of nearly 500 people, walking from City Hall to Pershing Square park. The four organizers stood atop a flatbed truck equipped with speakers and signs zip tied to the wooden side panels.
The nearly mile-long march overtook the streets, as cars honked at protesters walking against the flow of traffic. Supporters waved from the sidewalks and from the apartments above as the organizers chanted, “Off the sidewalks and into the streets.”
Both the Women’s March organization and Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights are planning events in the near future. Women’s March is planning its “summer of rage” in August, which will include a two-day women's convention in Texas. Locally, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights is planning a nationwide walkout on May 19.