This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of advocates for reproductive rights are expected to take to the streets in dozens of U.S. cities to protest the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
“We find that our worst fears have, in fact, come true,” Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March and an organizer for the protests planned Saturday, told Yahoo News. “So we are convening a large coalition of hundreds of organizations to gather across the country. And we have calls to action around federal legislation.”
After weeks of protests in front of the Supreme Court, and smaller rallies held outside the homes of the conservative justices who appear poised to overturn Roe, Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March, UltraViolet and MoveOn have convened a coalition of hundreds of organizations to gather at rallies this weekend in several U.S. cities.
According to UltraViolet, there are already 370 planned events in major cities this weekend including New York City, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
“We've been making sure to take it to the streets and to demonstrate that there is public outcry and that this is not the will of the people,” Carmona said. “This is not a democratic process. We’re in the belly of the beast and we’re here for the fight and we’re not having trouble mobilizing anywhere. And that will be the case for this summer.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are likely to ban or restrict access to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. So-called trigger laws, which would ban abortions almost immediately after Roe’s reversal, are already in place in 13 states.
“The reality is that some of the most impacted folks are in places like Florida and Louisiana and Mississippi and Oklahoma and Texas, and the places where these bans are going to hit first and hit hardest,” Carmona said.
On Wednesday, the Senate failed to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would have codified abortion rights nationwide. The final vote was 49 in favor and 51 against. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat to vote against the measure, which fell well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
No Republicans supported the bill.
“I am pro-life and believe we have a moral obligation to protect our most vulnerable,” Sen. Bill Haggerty, R-Tenn., said in a statement about the bill. “This legislation is both appalling in substance and a futile attempt to distract from a woeful governing record.”
Abortion rights supporter Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also voted against the bill.
“Contrary to claims from Senate Democratic leaders that their bill would not infringe upon the religious rights of individuals and religious institutions, the WHPA explicitly invalidates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in connection with abortion and supersedes other longstanding, bipartisan conscience laws, including provisions in the Affordable Care Act, that protect health care providers who choose not to offer abortion services for moral or religious reasons,” Collins said in a statement.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he had scheduled the vote to put every member of the Senate “on record” regarding abortion rights. With the midterm elections on the horizon, abortion rights advocates say the issue will certainly energize support for Democrats.
“When the GOP gets in power,” Carmona argued, “it inserts itself into our homes, into our communities, into our bedrooms, and into our bodies themselves to begin to legislate what we can and can’t do, and not in service of a higher political belief or a religious belief but in service of the continued power of a small group of people who can’t win the fair way.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who presided over the vote as Senate president but did not cast a vote said afterwards that the “majority of the American people believe in defending a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, and this vote will suggest the Senate is not for the majority of Americans.”
The decision to strike down Roe would place power back in the hands of individual states, allowing them to decide whether, when and how women could terminate their pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about one in four American women have an abortion before age 45.
“The reality is that whether abortions are legal or illegal, the data is clear,” Carmona said. “It does not change the amount of abortions that are happening, but what it does is it makes abortions less safe. Having abortions legalized saves lives, period. So that is why abortion is so critical to be a tent pole issue and a specific concern as we consider these broader attacks on democracy that we need to understand that abortion is one of the galvanizing issues that will show up, not just at the polls, but across our entire political spectrum.”
Based on a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, about 69% of registered voters say they would “oppose Congress passing a law that bans abortion nationwide.” The poll also found that when asked how they would vote in their district if the congressional election were being held today, 44% initially preferred a generic Democrat opposed to a generic Republican (39%). But when they were asked to choose between a “pro-choice Democrat” and a “pro-life Republican,” support for Republicans fell to 31% while remaining steady for Democrats.
Carmona hopes that this weekend’s protests not only send a message to lawmakers in Washington, but galvanize political support for upcoming elections.
“What we want to do is have this be a moment. And the moment that we believe it is, is the time when the GOP overplayed its hand and accidentally found a way to mobilize a base that cost it politically, and in the court of public opinion as well,” she said. “We believe that’s the moment that we’re in right now and we intend to move inside of that and meet that moment.”