Scenes from Roe protests across America
Five reporters documented the nation’s outrage from cities around the country.
On Monday evening, thanks to a leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico, the world learned of the U.S. Supreme Court’s plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that enshrined the right to an abortion. The backlash was instant, with abortion care advocates and grassroots organizers calling for immediate, fierce action in the face of losing this fundamental health care right. Protests were whipped into existence across the country, with many of them taking shape by Tuesday afternoon. Below, writers in five American cities give us a glimpse of what it was like on the streets Tuesday night.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Gathered outside the Bernalillo County Courthouse in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under skies hazy from the blaze of a dozen wildfires raging across the state, speakers from Planned Parenthood, the Southwest Women’s Law Center, and ProgressNow New Mexico denounced the leaked draft decision and commended local organizers who fought to have the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban erased from the books last year. Thanks to those efforts, abortion will remain legal in New Mexico even if Roe falls.
“As a faith-rooted organization, for us it’s essential to be here,” said Joan Lamunyon Sanford, the executive director of The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “We know that these abortion bans are deliberately using religion as a tool to justify harm against marginalized communities, using religion as a tool to discriminate, and for us religion is about how we love and care for one another.”
Mary Murphy, a local family medicine doctor at a federally qualified health center, listened to the speakers with her mother, who worked as a medical technologist in Albuquerque in the 1950s. “Birth control belongs between a family and their health care provider, and it’s nobody else’s business,” said Murphy, who was donning her white doctor’s coat.
Shortly after the speakers finished, a local branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation led attendees on a march through downtown Albuquerque, concluding in the crowded intersection of Lomas and 4th Street.
“Even though we see New Mexico as a very progressive state, the repeal of Roe v. Wade would actually put such a heavy burden on the state,” said PSL member Cynthia Rodriguez, citing the likely influx of abortion-seeking patients from neighboring Texas. “We’ve only ever won rights by going out into the streets, and it’s important that we fight now.”
In Los Angeles, several hundred protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Downtown. After speeches from several speakers, the crowd marched to nearby Pershing Square.
“It took me a while to absorb what happened, because I was just in disbelief,” said protester Doan Hoang, of the moment she heard about the leaked draft opinion. “I hope there will be a backlash, and I hope that it’ll show up in the election this year.”
On Monday, shortly after the draft leaked, California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a statement calling the opinion “an appalling attack on the rights of women across the country.” He and other California officials have announced plans to protect abortion access in California.
After some speeches in Pershing Square, there was a brief clash between police and protesters. The majority of the crowd had dispersed by the time police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly around 9:30 p.m.
-Jamie Lee Taete
New York City
Beneath the pillars of City Hall at Foley Square, New York City protesters rallied Tuesday. The gathering brought together a range of people, including individuals who lived through illegal abortions, partners of those who had safe abortions, and young activists. As the group moved north through Manhattan’s Chinatown and SoHo neighborhoods and toward Washington Square Park, they created a unifying energy, shouting “their body, their choice.”
There were cardboard signs held aloft with phrases like “this is safe to you?” with a hand-drawn hanger, “SCOTUS is corrupt,” and even “abort the G.O.P.” There was a skateboard with “abolish states” written on it. It was clear protesters were concerned not just with the impending Supreme Court decision, but the government that allowed things to get to this point.
With a Democratic president in the White House, protesters were exhausted with a lack of policy action from the man they voted into the building. “How many fucking speeches are we going to listen to? And Joe Biden, fuck him!,” said one rally leader, as the group settled in the park. “He says he’s on the side of abortion rights, he says he’s on the side of unions, but he’s the leader of the leader of the state that got us here.”
Salt Lake City, Utah
“2, 4, 6, 8 — separate the church and state!” The chant rang out in the crowd of almost a thousand people as they gathered below the steps to the Utah State Capitol building at 5 p.m. on Tuesday evening at the Rally for Abortion Access. Clouds hung low on the peaks of the Wasatch Range, and a light drizzle fell on the protesters. In Salt Lake City, the handwritten posters reflected the heavy mood of the day’s news. One poster had a coat hanger taped to it and read “Never Again.” Another had a simple message — “Women Will Die” — written in red and black marker.
Utah is one of the “trigger law” states, which means that abortion would most likely be banned outright if the Supreme Court rules to overturn Roe v. Wade. But as one of the only Democratic cities in the state, Salt Lake City had residents of all ages and genders show up to make their voices heard. As the crowd rallied and organizers gave speeches, only a handful of security guards stood to watch by the doors of the Capitol building.
By 6:20 p.m., hundreds of protesters still remained, and the rally organizer cried, “To the streets!” The crowd began to march toward downtown Salt Lake City. They turned onto State Street, and their chants still resounded back up the hill — almost as loud as a stadium audience — echoing off the church-owned white walls of Temple Square.
In Florida’s capital on Tuesday, community members organized emergency rallies. Located in front of the Florida Supreme Court, members of Planned Parenthood and coalition partners like Tallahassee Community Action Committee, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization gathered among a crowd of around 300 attendees.
Signs plastered with hangers accompanied language related to unsafe abortions as chants encouraging bodily autonomy rang throughout the sea of protesters. Regardless of their identities and backgrounds, there was a similar sentiment across the group of speakers: The Democratic Party isn’t actively working to protect reproductive freedoms, but local community and grassroot organizations are. After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the state’s 15-week abortion ban into law last month, organizers have made it clear that their efforts to provide abortion access isn’t over.
“If you think that this doesn’t affect you because you’re [cisgender], a man, or because of some certain thing — it does affect you,” said Delilah Pierre, field director for Tallahassee Community Action Committee and one of the many speakers Tuesday evening. “Policies, bills, and legislation like this strips away all of our freedom, economic rights, right to organize — all our right to be people.”
In the fight for labor rights and reproductive justice, and against Florida’s well-known “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the city’s vast group of organizers has led the way against DeSantis’s surveillance state agenda. On Tuesday night, they once again made their presence known.