Tens of thousands of demonstrators are taking to the streets in hundreds of protests across the country on Saturday to defend abortion rights following a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark law that legalized abortion nationwide.
From Maine to Hawaii, protesters are turning out to more than 370 rallies, with the largest gatherings expected in New York, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
The demonstrations, dubbed “Bans Off Our Bodies,” are intended to show the “serious threat" to abortion rights, and to add pressure on lawmakers to find ways to codify those rights in federal and state laws, they said.
A majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but many remain open to certain restrictions around it, according to the Pew Research Center.
"We are losing the rights to our bodies in 2022," a young woman in the Washington, D.C., rally said.
She joined crowds of people who initially gathered at the Washington Monument voicing their fears of a future without access to legal abortion. Many of them expressed concern that overturning Roe could lead to additional reproductive health care restrictions.
One woman opened up for the first time about a "back alley abortion" she had at age 13, while attending the rally in the Washington rally.
"It was the worst experience of my life, and I can't believe we're going back to this," she said about not having access to a safe abortion. "It's a tragedy."
Legal experts have already warned that overturning Roe could result in some birth control bans. Other experts are also raising the alarm over the negative consequences this could have on miscarriage care.
About 700 women die every year of pregnancy-related complications, and it is estimated that 3 in 5 of those deaths are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly two dozen states are likely to ban abortions or severely restrict access to the procedure if Roe is overturned. In 13 of those states, “trigger laws” would be activated that would ban all abortions in less than 30 days.
“If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get,” said Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March.
The Women’s March, Planned Parenthood organizations, UltraViolet, MoveOn, Liberate Abortion, ACLU, NARAL Pro-Choice America, SEIU and dozens of other groups organized Saturday's rallies.
At the Los Angeles protest, Joel Altshuler said he was “still furious” over the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would strike down Roe.
He voiced his concern for people in states seeking to ban or restrict abortios who will “not only not be allowed to have an abortion, they could be criminalized for doing so.
"There will be more women who die trying to get an illegal abortion," Altshuler said.
Although data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows abortions have decreased in recent years, the procedure is still common. The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights think tank, estimates that nearly 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will have had an abortion by age 45.
Teisha Kimmons, a demonstrator in the Chicago rally, said she might not be alive today if she had not 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,” Kimmons, who is 46, said. “We have to vote in pro-choice politicians because women’s lives depend on it."
Emily Kellis, who attended the Los Angeles rally, opened up about an abortion she had at age 25. Kellis said she is "very grateful" to have had access to an abortion.
"If I’d had that child, I don’t know that I would have been a very good parent to them at the time," she said. "I wouldn’t have had the financial means to support them. It would have disrupted my career, my husband’s career, all of our families."
The protests are happening three days after the Senate failed to advance a Democratic-led bill that would have preserved broad protections for legal abortion nationwide.