WASHINGTON — Abortion rights supporters demonstrating at hundreds of marches and rallies Saturday, including on the North Olympic Peninsula, expressed their outrage that the Supreme Court appears prepared to scrap the constitutional right to abortion that has endured for nearly a half-century and their fear about what that could mean for women’s reproductive choices.
Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s conservative majority would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists spoke of the need to mobilize quickly because Republican-led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.
Between 200 and 300 people reportedly gathered with signs for a protest in Port Townsend organized by Indivisible Port Townsend and joined by Indivisible Sequim and Voices for Health & Healing, two Sequim-based organizations that aimed to avoid conflict with the Sequim Irrigation Festival events.
The rally/march began near the Port Townsend Food Coop and while some stayed there, others lined Water Street to the Washington State Ferry dock and some continued on to the Northwest Maritime Center’s totem pole before marching back, according to information from Elizabeth Shilling of Indivisible Sequim.
Another group organized a Sequim rally, timing it to be after the festival’s Grand Parade. That rally drew between 25 and 30 people — including some tourists — for about an hour and half, said organizer Carlos Osorio of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
Many cars honked in approval as they passed, Shilling and Osorio said.
“The whole time we were there, I think we got one negative car,” Osorio said.
In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered in drizzly weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security fences.
The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade.
“I can’t believe that, at my age, I’m still having to protest over this,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government employee who is preparing for a state-by-state battle over abortion rights.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar on it and a necklace that spelled out “vote.”
“I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
A half-dozen anti-abortion demonstrators sent out a countering message, with Jonathan Darnel shouting into a microphone, “Abortion is not health care, folks, because pregnancy is not an illness.”
From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and Nashville, Tenn., to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in events, where chants of “Bans off our bodies!” and “My body, my choice!” rang out.
The gatherings were largely peaceful, but in some cities there were tense confrontations between people on opposing sides of the issue.
Polls show most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say. If that happens, roughly half of states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.
Thousands turned out to support reproductive rights in Boise, Idaho, which has passed legislation criminalizing abortion that hinges on Roe v. Wade being overturned. Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, told the crowd: “Overturning Roe v. Wade is not their endgame; it is just the beginning. The supermajority in the Idaho Legislature is hostile to contraception.”
In Seattle, some protesters carried photographic images of conservative justices’ heads on sticks.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She 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,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Ill.
At that rally, speaker after speaker said that if abortion is banned, the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, put it.
“This has never been just about abortion. It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands.
In New York, thousands of people gathered in Brooklyn’s courthouse plaza before a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan for another rally.
“We’re here for the women who can’t be here, and for the girls who are too young to know what is ahead for them,” Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan, said to the backdrop of booming music.
The Associated Press reported from Portland, Maine; Chicago; New York, San Antonio and Washington, D.C.