As people across the US reacted in shock and disbelief to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, thousands converged in front of government buildings, parks, and the nation's top courtroom to protest what they said was a rollback of hard-won rights dating back nearly 50 years.
Outside the Supreme Court on Friday, a growing crowd of protesters gathered to oppose the decision. Hundreds of people carrying last-minute handmade signs defiantly raised their voices in chants and promises to “aid and abet” abortions.
BuzzFeed News also spoke to many DC tourists who canceled their plans to come to Capitol Hill on Friday when they heard the news. Bonnie Sutton, 69, from Illinois said that she and her husband had just landed and were in a cab when their daughter texted them about the decision and urged them to protest.
“I’m a teacher — I stuck [posterboard and markers] in my bag at the last minute in case the decision came down today,” she said.
The Suttons walked an hour from their hotel to the court.
“We had to do something,” Sutton said. “I just could not believe that [the abortion rights issue] was going to come around again.”
Erin Somers, 36, of Texas, told BuzzFeed News that she had been at the National Archives with her husband and two children earlier Friday morning, but they decided to come to the Supreme Court as soon as they learned of the court’s decision.
“I think that it’s important in an age-appropriate way to let them be a part of things like this,” she said, looking at her 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. “It’s scary. I think that [the decision] opens the door to so many other things that could affect me, and could affect [my children]. I feel like when we start opening doors to take such significant rights away, the rest of us should be concerned.”
In a 6–3 decision by the conservative majority, the court overturned its 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade and upheld Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. That will give states — mostly in the South and Midwest — the ability to outlaw the medical procedure, forcing people to travel long distances to places where it's still legal. For many, however, that's cost prohibitive.
Demonstrations were also planned for major metro areas across the US Friday evening, including in Los Angeles and in New York, where hundreds of people gathered Washington Square Park.
Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of the Daily Show and now-abortion rights activist who runs Abortion AF, said Friday was “the worst day of my life.”
“It doesn't affect me, I use my uterus for storage now,” she said while demonstrating at the park. “It affects me because it affects other people. I'm a human being in the world. I've had abortions. I have privilege. I'm out here because I'm not of reproductive age, which means I can work my ass off with organizations who are funding abortions as we speak.”
Others in the crowd included Anna, Linda, Constance, and Becca.
“Its not just about me,” Anna said. “It's about all the women that will suffer, and the people that will die.”
“My first thought was, ‘I can never leave New York now,” Constance added. “We have family in Georgia and cousins in other sides who want us all to be together, and now I'm like — yeah no.”
They also feared that gay marriage will be next.
“It's a very big step on a slippery slope,” Becca said.
President Joe Biden and others warned that the Supreme Court decision had set the US on an “extreme and dangerous path” that could lead to the overturn of other civil rights, including marriage equality. As Pride Month draws to a close, the timing of the Roe decision, combined with Justice Clarence Thomas's separate opinion that his colleagues should reconsider other rights previously granted by the court, is expected to draw even more people to demonstrations.
“I don't know what to tell people other than we have come too far to let these things be taken away from us,” Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized marriage for same-sex couples nationwide, told BuzzFeed News on Friday.
Steffi Cao reported from New York City.