Abortion rights supporters have staged hundreds of marches and rallies across the United States to express outrage that the Supreme Court appears set to strike down the constitutional right to abortion.
Furious after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s Tory majority would overturn the historic Roe v Wade decision that made abortion legal for nearly half a century, campaigners have spoken of the need to mobilize quickly as Republican-led states are set to pass tougher restrictions.
In the nation’s capital, thousands of people gathered at the Washington Monument in rainy weather on Saturday to listen to fiery speeches before heading to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security barriers.
The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to enshrine Roe v Wade as federal law.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissident” necklace and a necklace that spelled “vote”.
She said: “I think women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it dangerous and can cost a woman her life.
From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and from Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands of people attended events, where chants of “Bans off our bodies” and “My body, my choice” rang out.
The rallies were largely peaceful, but in some cities there were tense clashes between people on opposite sides over the issue.
Polls show most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the early stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appears poised to let states have the final say.
The battle was personal for some who came out on Saturday.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are prepared to ban abortion.
She said she might not be alive today if she hadn’t had a legal abortion when she was 15.
“I was already starting to self-harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” she said.
At the same rally, speaker after speaker declared that if abortion is banned, the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “emptied”.
Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, told the crowd of thousands, “It was never just about abortion. It’s a matter of control.
“My wedding is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen.”
“We’re here for the women who can’t be here and for the girls who are too young to know what’s coming for them,” said Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan.
Robin Seidon, who traveled from Montclair, New Jersey, for the rally, said the nation is in a place abortion rights supporters have long feared.
“They nibbled at the edges, and it was always a matter of time before they thought they had enough power over the Supreme Court, which they have now,” Ms Seidon, 65, said.
Speakers at many rallies put the issue in stark terms, saying people would die if abortions were banned.
In Los Angeles, high-profile attorney Gloria Allred told how she couldn’t get a legal abortion after being raped at gunpoint in the 1960s. She said she ended up having life-threatening bleeding after “back alley” abortion.
“I want you to vote like your life depends on it, because it does,” she told the crowd, ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.