Thousands demonstrate at the US Supreme Court to protect abortion rights
On Monday evening, following a leak published by Politico on a Supreme Court draft suggesting overturning the 1973 Roe versus Wade ruling constitutionally protecting a woman's right to an abortion, demonstrations broke out at the Supreme Court and in cities across the United States.
In Washington, DC, after late-night demonstrations Monday on the steps of the Supreme Court, thousands gathered throughout Tuesday in front of the building, as the steps were sealed off to the public, with most in attendance showing support for abortion rights.
It was the largest public gathering at the Supreme Court since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose vacated seat during Donald Trump's administration left many Democrats worried about the status of abortion rights. This week, that fear appeared closer to the potential reality of overturning Roe v. Wade.
"I came down here today because to me Roe v. Wade stands for access, it stands for safe healthcare, and it stands for choice," Kristi Smith, a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The New Arab.
"I think when you live in a democracy that practices and preaches those values, overturning decisions like this that have been around for fifty years is alarming, it's scary, and it makes me question the future of this nation and the direction we're going," she said.
Similarly, Maeve Bradley, an occupational therapist, told TNA, "I came out here today because I feel like it would've been silly to not be on the right side of history and resist. Women have been trying really hard for a long time to be in the place that we're in. Now it seems like we're going backwards."
On the left side of the main entrance to the Supreme Court were abortion rights activists, while on the right side of the court, separated by a city block of police barricades, were anti-abortion activists, who accounted for less than a third of their abortion rights counterparts. By the end of the day, as more people arrived, that proportion had shrunk to considerably less for the anti-abortion side.
The size of the crowd fluctuated, but most estimates put it in the thousands.
According to polls, the majority of Americans support the Roe v. Wade precedent of the constitution supporting a woman's right to an abortion. A Gallup poll from last year found that 58 per cent opposed overturning Roe v. Wade.
Despite this support, abortion rights in the US have always been fragile due to the country's political makeup. With two senators per state, including rural states with lower populations than most cities, combined with the two-thirds majority filibuster and lifetime Supreme Court appointees who can be nominated by presidents who did not win the popular vote, the system has always been vulnerable to a conservative minority ruling over a liberal majority.
When Trump, who lost the popular vote by three million votes, appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, creating a 6-3 majority, he paved the way for the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The draft majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, makes clear that the decision would be an end to a woman's constitutionally right to an abortion. Moreover, the logic he uses in the decision – that there is no mention of abortion in the constitution – has led many to wonder if this could set a precedent for dismantling other ground-breaking civil rights legislation, such as gay marriage, or even interracial marriage.
"Roe expressed the 'feel[ing]' that the Fourteenth Amendment was the provision that did the work, but its message seemed to be that the abortion right could be found somewhere in the Constitution and that specifying its exact location was not of paramount importance," Alito wrote in the leaked first draft.
If the decision moves forward, it would be the first time the Supreme Court overturns a ruling that grants individual and civil rights, setting a precedent that other rights could be overturned in a similar way.
"People got complacent once Biden got into office," Chima Mbukwe, a second-year MBA student at Howard University, told TNA. "I'm hoping at least people here can be inspired to prevent the action. It's a shame that it took a leak for people to see how crucial it's been."
"I'm hoping some action will work, and we have to put in the groundwork to make it happen. I just see this as a continued right-wing advance on fundamental rights and liberties," he added.