DC shows support for abortion rights after Supreme Court decision
‘I’m here in rage’
Hundreds rallied under the beating sun outside the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon to protest the Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional guarantee of the right to an abortion.
The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, abandoning almost 50 years of precedent for reproductive rights and abortion access and turning those longstanding protections back to the states. For many of those who gathered at the Court on Friday, it was a day of outrage and anguish.
“It is a very sad day. It is sad that we are having to fight for rights that have already been fought for for so many years,” said Adia Brown, 23, who was joined at the protest on Friday by two friends.
With chants such as “Whose rights? Our rights?” and speakers from local activist groups such as Freedom Fighters DC and Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, demonstrators gathered outside of the court, expressing their outcry about the decision.
“At the end of the day, the Democrats had 50 years to codify Roe v. Wade. Joe Biden has had a year and a half to codify Roe v. Wade,” said Afeni Evans, an organizer with Freedom Fighters DC in her speech to the crowd.
“I’m here in rage. I will continue to be here, I’ve been out here and I want to see some reform on the court,” said Abby Henderson, 29, a lawyer and local organizer.
People both young and old congregated by the court throughout the day. Johanna Marks, 35, brought her six-month-old daughter with her to the court that day. Marks, a D.C. resident, held a sign which read “States can regulate uteruses but not guns? And the Court isn’t political? Supreme hypocrites.”
“I just can't imagine she's gonna grow up in a country where depending on where she lives, she might not be able to access an abortion if she needs. I owe it to her,” Marks said.
In D.C., there will be no immediate changes to abortion access following the court’s decision. However, 13 states have “trigger laws” — laws that immediately curtail access to abortion following the court’s decision to strike down Roe. Local government officials in the district are strongly in favor of protecting abortion rights in the nation’s capital, but they can be overruled if congressional Republicans take control of both chambers of Congress in 2024.
Because D.C. does not have statehood, the local government has limited power to protect local laws. Congressional Republicans have a history of trying to limit abortion access in the district, including banning the city from using Medicaid dollars to fund abortions. Despite this, local officials have said they are committed to protecting abortion access in D.C.
“Washington, D.C. is a proud pro-choice city and access to abortion is still legal here,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a statement on Friday. “This is about health care. This is about women’s rights. This is about bodily autonomy. A majority of Americans believe in a woman’s right to choose. This fight is urgent but not over.”
Several speakers pointed to the disproportionate effects the decision will have on Black people who may be seeking abortions. Of the 29 states that report data for race and ethnicity for abortion, 38 percent of all people who had abortions in 2019 were Black, in comparison to the 21 percent of people who were white, according to Pew Research Center.
“Black bodies are under attack,” said one of the rally’s speakers, Nee Nee Taylor, to the crowd. “The most attacked person behind this decision is the Black woman.”
“We are not going to turn back. Abortion by any means necessary,” Taylor said as the crowd erupted in cheers in front of her.
Demonstrators continued to gather outside of the court for several days following the decision, with their message remaining the same: this would not be the end of their fight.
“I think this is a moment if repro[ductive] rights is an issue that catalyzes you, get plugged in,” Henderson said. “Find the groups that are working locally and organizing locally and figure out what you can do because when our institutions fail us, we have to lean on community and your community is where you live so I just would encourage people to make community because that's who's gonna take care of you.”