The annual Women’s March saw hundreds of attendees Jan. 20 as people demonstrated at Freedom Plaza to both mourn the second anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and call on Congress to aid in the fight for reproductive rights in the United States
The event was organized by Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a Black-led abolitionist organization focused on providing political, community and legal defense. The event featured speeches from Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs from the Women’s March, Jade Mathis, Esq., founder of The Resilient JEM and multiple representatives from Harriet’s Wildest Dreams.
Speakers centered their speeches around the lack of accessible reproductive health care for individuals in D.C., specifically those in the Southeast quadrant.
“Black women living east of the Anacostia Rivers’ infant mortality rate is six times higher than the District’s average,” said Jamila White, the chairperson for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8A and founder of blakQuity. “For the seventh richest city in the world, Ward 7 and 8 residents — which is predominantly Black — have to travel across the river or to another state to seek medical attention.”
St. Bernard-Jacobs emphasized that the issues go beyond Roe v. Wade and that “reproductive justice affects all of us.”
“We are focused on shaping a future that respects and upholds the choices of everyone and ensures that there’s legislation in place to protect these decisions,” St. Bernard-Jacobs said. “The 2024 agenda … is freedom, families [and] future.”
Nee Nee Taylor, co-founder and executive director of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams read a statement from the DC Abortion Fund. The fund helps to cover abortion costs and provide transportation to the D.C. metro area as needed. In 2022, the fund pledged $2.3 million to provide abortion services, according to their website.
“Abortions have always been out of reach for working people, especially Black and brown people,” Taylor read from the D.C. Abortion Fund statement. “The abortion fund is a band-aid solution to a for-profit healthcare system which leaves behind abortion seekers at every term.”
Speakers also mentioned the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and how reproductive rights are affected on a global scale.
“I would be remiss to ask when you go home and tell your elected officials to demand a ceasefire now. Nearly 25,000 martyrs,” said Jillian Burford, a policy organizer with Harriet’s Wildest Dreams. “Thousands of Gazans are expected to give birth soon in an active combat zone fueled by American imperialism. One martyr is one martyr too many. We have a duty to fight for all women and gender nonconforming folks because we keep us safe.”
“The state of Maryland is getting it right. We want to become a sanctuary state so that we can continue to ensure that women have abortions safely and that women are allowed to do so and be able to make that choice,” Johnson said. “We cannot and we will not take away the choice for women to choose whether or not they want to bring a life into this world, for whatever reasons that may be.”
Counter-protesters showed their support for restrictive abortion laws with signs reading “Abortion is Murder,” “Abortion Offends God” and “Stop Abortion Trafficking.” Several of these counter-protesters were in D.C. for the March for Life the day prior.
Deik Torstenson, a human rights activist from Colorado Springs, said that he protested the March for Life and was walked out by the D.C. police, while counter-protesters at the Women’s March were allowed to stay, though police were present.
After the march, Sophia Segal, a freshman in American University’s School of Public Affairs, said the presence of the counter-protesters wasn’t impactful.
“They have the right to protest, but I also feel like they aren’t really making any real changes because everyone is solidified in their views and … it’s not fair that they’re trying to change people’s minds, but we’re just here to express how we feel,” Segal said. “I think everybody should just be respectful instead of pushing their views.”
Riley Ford, a sophomore in the Kogod School of Business, said she was also interested in “how disrespectful people are towards each other.”
“People are trying to tell their stories with abortion and how that’s helped them, and [counter-protesters are] completely ignoring that and trying to cover that up with how bad [abortion] is all the time,” Ford said.
Despite the counter-protesters’ attempts to disrupt the march, the speakers did not waver in their message to the protestors as organizers emphasized the importance of access to reproductive rights and the general fight for democracy.
“We never thought we’d have to take and fight for a democracy that, for some of us, has always been more of an aspiration than a reality,” St. Bernard-Jacobs said. “But we can win. We can win for women and we can win for us all, because the finest future is one where we can all thrive.”
This article was edited by Zoe Bell, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Sarah Clayton.