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Thousands of pro-choice activists from different corners in America descended on Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the “Bans Off Our Bodies” event organized by a coalition of groups including Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March.
Welcoming activists to the nation’s capital, Rachel Carmona, executive director for the Women’s March, warned this will be a “summer of rage” as she spoke at the event held on the National Mall.
Rachel O’Leary Carmona speaks onstage during the Bans Off Our Bodies Rally on May 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Women’s March)
“We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, ungovernable,” Carmona said, leading those in attendance into an “ungovernable” chant. “That’s why we are taking to the streets today in cities all across the country. It’s why today isn’t just one day of action. It is simply day one of an invigorated movement aligned behind one simple demand, and you all heard it, keep your bans off our bodies!”
“Today is day one of an uprising to protect abortion rights,” Carmona said. “It is day one of our feminist future and it is day one of a summer of rage where we will be ungovernable, ungovernable. And we will not stop until the politicians on our side start acting like they’re on our side.”
Carmona said she and other activists will fight “until justice protects us from attacks on our bodies” and “until everyone who wants an abortion has the right to get one.” She also vowed to see other activists in the “streets this summer continuing to fight.”
Abortion rights activists participate in a Bans Off Our Bodies rally on May 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Janeese Lewis George, a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, also attended the event, calling for free abortion procedures and told the crowd that if Roe v. Wade is overturned “working class people and families will die.”
“Overturning Roe will hurt black, brown, indigenous communities,” George said. “Abortion costs money and is unaffordable for so many who cannot travel hundreds or thousands of miles away for abortion care.”
Janeese Lewis George speaks after being sworn in as a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, representing ward four, outside of the Wilson Building in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 2, 2021. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
“Let us be clear, right now they are just coming for our liberty, our autonomy,” she said. “And they will not stop there. This fight is a fight where we all need to be in solidarity because they will come for equality of marriage, they will come for gay rights, they will come for trans rights. This fight is about all of us. Working class people and families will die if this is allowed to happen. They will suffer. History tells us that.”
Closing her speech, George urged those in attendance to “stand up” and “fight back.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., also spoke at the event and asserted that the nation was in a “crisis moment,” taking aim at the “radical Supreme Court justices and right-wing extremists” whom she claimed have made it “clear that they won’t stop until a nationwide ban is enacted.”
“We are here to say loudly and clearly: Keep these bans off our bodies,” Lee said. “Our right to make our own decisions about our bodies is in danger of being taken away. Like many of you, I’m scared, yes I’m upset, yes I’m angry. We fought these battles 50 years ago. … But we’re moving forward because we understand this radical right and we must fight them again. But fight we will.”
If the Supreme Court does undo Roe v. Wade as legal precedent, abortion restrictions return to state legislatures — many of which have enacted “trigger laws” to restrict abortion if Roe is overturned. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that a federal 15-week abortion ban is “possible” if Roe is overturned.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., conducts a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“If they coming for us today, they coming for you tomorrow,” Lee said. “So don’t think these bans aren’t an attempt to further erode our personal liberties and our democracy.”
Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), along with April Verrett, president of the California-based SEIU chapter, took the stage to address the “crisis about our bodies.”
“Working class women — Black, Latina, Asian-Pacific Islander, indigenous, and white — are already struggling to make ends meet,” Henry said. “April and I know that many of these women are structured into jobs that are poverty-wage jobs because of corporate power and systemic racism. And these same working class cowmen of every race cannot afford a plane, a train, or a bus ticket to another state just to get the healthcare they deserve.”
Echoing Henry, Verrett said, “We are not just gonna stand” and vowed to “mobilize.”
An abortion rights activist rallies during the Bans Off Our Bodies abortion rights rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
“We are gonna lift our voices,” she said. “Now is the time for action. We will fight back.”
“It is absolutely un-American to deny women this fundamental, constitutional right,” Verrett added. “All of us, each and every one of us, has a horse in this race. We all have something at stake in this fight.”
Several pro-choice activists from different faith organizations also attended the event and spoke in favor of legal protections for abortion.
Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, told the audience on Saturday that the “religious right” has dominated the religious narrative on abortion.
“Spoiler alert: Jews have abortions, Christians have abortions, Muslims have abortions, people of faith and no faith have abortions,” Katz said. “Right now, people across our country wh are already marginalized face the inhumane reality that they could be forced into pregnancy, a life-changing and potentially life-threatening condition. Just one forced pregnancy is one too many.”
Sheila Katz, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women, speaks at an event outside of the U.S Capitol Building on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MoveOn)
“For too long, this country has allowed a small, but loud group from the religious right to dominate the narrative around abortion and religion, claiming that abortion access is a violation fo religious freedom,” Katz said. “So we ask them whose religious freedom are you trying to protect? Not mine. Judaism not only permits abortion, but requires it when the life of the pregnant person is at risk.”
Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice and a self-described “proud queer, lesbian, Catholic woman,” said that she represents the “68% of Catholics who do not want to see Roe overturned.”
Jamie Manson of Catholics for Choice speaks at a protest at the U.S. Capitol on October 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Care In Action)
“I support abortion access because of my Catholic faith, not in spite of it,” she said. “Abortion bans create profound suffering among those who are already oppressed by sinful structures of racism, gender inequality, economic insecurity, and immigration restrictions. Catholics are taught a theology of social justice and abortion bans are the opposite of justice. What we’re seeing right now at the Supreme Court is a result of religious overreach led by Catholic bishops, allegedly celibate men who will never, ever be pregnant.”
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” event comes nearly two weeks after a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court signaled Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision which grants federal protections for abortion, may soon be in danger of being overturned. The draft opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, was written in February.