Thousands of people rallied nationwide Saturday for the Women's March in support of abortion rights after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.
The headlining "Rally For Abortion Justice" began at 10 a.m. with a faith gathering at Freedom Plaza in D.C. The rally started at noon with the group marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and ending at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Latina comedian and actress Cristela Alonzo hosted the event and actress Busy Philipps and Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA Division 1 swimmer, made appearances, according to the Women's March website.
Alonzo talked about how her mother grew up in a village in Mexico and didn't realize how powerful her voice was until she left Alonzo's father and moved to Texas.
“She spent her life up until her death telling me this country was the place that had given her a choice. But years later I stand here confused," Alonzo told the crowd. "I always believed that with the passing of time progress would happen, change for the greater good would happen. I believed that it was inevitable but now I stand here because lawmakers are working on doing the exact opposite by creating legislation that not only takes away our choices but can take away our lives.”
The actress said she wanted to participate in the march to let lawmakers know “that we are capable of deciding what is best for us.”
“We can decide what to do with our own bodies,” she said. “What we’re asking for is the right to be treated as a person with their own brain, their own heart to make decisions that are right for us.”
Bailar said the right to safe and legal abortion access should be available to everyone, saying "this is a woman’s issue. And it is also a transgender man’s issue. It is also a nonbinary persons issue."
"This is about all of us," Bailar told the large crowd.
A group of pro-life protesters held a smaller rally on the plaza in front of the Supreme Court, blocking the abortion rights advocates from reaching the steps. U.S. Capitol Police were on hand but both sides stayed peaceful.
More than 600 sister marches were held in cities across the country. The group said more than 100,000 people will participate in the nationwide event.
The march, the first one held since former President Donald Trump left office, hopes to raise awareness about "abortion justice," the website states.
On Sept. 1, Abbott's restrictive abortion law went into effect which prohibits abortion once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. Abortion advocates have argued that the law effectively bans abortion statewide because many women do not know they are pregnant at that point.
Kleo VanWay, a student in Washington, D.C., said she attended the rally to let the Supreme Court know "that you can't silence us. Abortion will always be needed."
“I am here because I’m an Appalachian, I’m from West Virginia, we only have one abortion clinic,” VanWay said. “I’m here today to promote the fact that access needs to be expanded."
Cathy Manns, from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, said pressure needs to be put on the Supreme Court.
“I was a little, little kid when Roe v. Wade was passed. And here I am almost retirement age, and I’m still having to fight this battle,” Manns, who was at the D.C. event, said. “I am hoping that the pressure pays off — that the Supreme Court really stops and thinks about the decision that they’re making, the impact. This is huge.”
Cameron French, a grad student in D.C., said he attended to show support for his sister, mother and other women in his life.
“I don’t want any woman in America to have to think about going back to the days where women died due to back-alley abortions. It’s better to keep them safe," he said, adding, "abortion isn’t going to go away."
Lawyers for the Justice Department appeared in a Texas federal court on Friday to ask a judge to block the state's law, arguing it's "in open defiance of the Constitution." In court papers, the lawyers argued that the statute "prohibits most pre-viability abortions, even in cases of rape, sexual abuse or incest" and "also prohibits any effort to aid — or, indeed, any attempt to aid — the doctors who provide pre-viability abortions or the women who exercise their right to seek one."
Lawyers for the Texas Attorney General's Office said that the law is constitutional and asked that any request for a preliminary injunction is denied.
The judge, Robert Pitman, said he would issue a decision at a later date and did not indicate how he will rule.
The Justice Department filed the case last month after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to block the law from taking effect. The court's 5-4 decision said that abortion providers who'd challenged the law "have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law," but those arguments did not adequately address "complex and novel" procedural questions presented by the case.
Organizers for the Women's March said when the Court denied the request to block the law "they effectively took the next step towards overturning Roe v. Wade," the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationally.
"Simply put: We are witnessing the most dire threat to abortion access in our lifetime," the Women's March website states. "That's why we’re marching in every single state and in our nation's capital Washington, DC. ... We need to send an unmistakable message about our fierce opposition to restricting abortion access and overturning Roe v. Wade before it's too late."