One million march nationwide to demand abortion rights protection
Thousands massed for abortion rights this weekend in Washington DC. | Women's March/Twitter

WASHINGTON—From coast to coast, an estimated one million people nationwide turned out May 14 to demand lawmakers—state and federal—protect the constitutional right to abortion, despite what the U.S. Supreme Court says.

And the rallies and activism won’t stop, abortion proponents add. Pro-abortion groups are circulating petitions. A follow-up rally—the first of many–is already scheduled for May 27 in Bowling Green, Ohio. And protecting abortion rights will be a top topic at the Women’s March’s national convention, August 12-14 in Houston.

“This was just day one,” the Women’s March declared about May 14. Welcome to the Summer of Rage” (emphasis theirs).

Besides thousands turning out in D.C. and marching to the Supreme Court, there were two marches in New York City, another in Los Angeles, and marches in Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, St. Paul, and even in cities in deep-red states, such as Nashville, Tenn., and Tulsa, Okla., as well as cities in “purple” swing states, such as Raleigh, N.C., and Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio. There were at least 300 marches nationwide.

“Keep abortion safe and legal,” was a common chant. So were “Bans off our bodies,” and “My body, my choice.” A video of the Tulsa rally included the chant “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”

Whether all this will push a stubborn U.S. Congress—and misogynist right-wing politicians nationwide—to reverse course is doubtful. Which is why tens of thousands of the marchers, plus the groups that organized the mass movement, are vowing to remember in November, and beyond.

Marchers were energized by two national abortion developments. The first was a draft opinion by right-wing Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, joined by four other right-wing justices, outlawing and obliterating the constitutional right to abortion, and reversing the 49-year-old Roe v Wade decision which promulgated it.

Republican presidents named all five justices. Catering to anti-abortionists and other “social issue” right-wingers, the Republicans have made abolition of abortion central to their agenda for decades.

“This is a worst-case-scenario come to life,” Women’s March Executive Director Rachel O’Leary Carmona said prior to the mass marches on May 14.

“If and when this decision takes effect, the consequences will be unbearable—and for many women, lethal. That is no exaggeration. But it’s also no exaggeration to say that women will fight back like we always have. We won’t take this lying down.

“We’re showing up for abortion rights, saying bans off our bodies, and demanding that elected officials take action before the court gets the chance to overturn abortion,” Carmona declared.

The second was Senate defeat, for the second time, of the Democratic-sponsored Women’s Health Protection Act. It lost 49-51, with dissident Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., joining all 50 Republicans to vote down even an attempt to debate the measure.

“Today’s Senate doesn’t have the courage, vision, or commitment to vote for women’s lives—but we do,” the National Organization for Women said. “NOW members are determined to make the upcoming midterm elections a referendum on women’s health and safety.  We must elect a filibuster-proof abortion rights majority to the Senate, and stop these cruel, misogynist attacks on women’s rights.”

“Once again, the male-dominated, Senate has shown that it cares more about controlling women and taking away their bodily autonomy than protecting their health and safety,” said National Organization for Women President Christian Nunes.

“Should the Supreme Court take away the constitutional right to safe, legal abortion, young people stand to lose the most. So many of us — who grew up with the understanding that Roe was settled law — could have never imagined that our own children would have fewer rights and less freedom over their own bodies and futures. What we see in young people from all walks of life is that they aren’t backing down — not today, not ever,” said Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson.

But while Carmona, the marchers, and the other sponsoring groups demand action to protect abortion, another sponsor—the American Civil Liberties Union—is reporting almost all the action on the state level, which is where marchers also expect fights to occur, is going the other way: Against abortion.

It said 13 states have “trigger bans” on abortion which will take effect once the justices finalize their decision upholding Mississippi’s anti-abortion law—the edict that prompted the Supreme Court case. Another nine have abortion bans on the books that have been nullified, by Roe, for 49 years, but were never repealed.

The ACLU and others call those “zombie bans…because they could come back from the dead if Roe is overturned.”

The organization also notes “a handful” of states have pro-abortion governors whose veto can kill anti-abortion bills—and have it upheld—a state supreme court that can kill such legislation as violating state constitutions or one house of the legislature that can deep-six anti-abortion bills the other house approves.

But all those “firewalls” can be overturned in elections this fall, or 2024 or—in some states—2025.

Which is why many of the marchers were vowing not just to “remember in November” but beyond that.

“We know what happens when abortion is banned,” the ACLU added. “Texas has already given us a preview with SB8, a six-week ban in effect for more than nine months because of a private enforcement mechanism that made it difficult to block in court.

‘The effects have been devastating, cutting the number of abortions in Texas by half and multiplying the number of patients seeking abortion in bordering states.” One of those bordering states, right-wing-controlled Oklahoma, enacted its own copycat of the Texas law, on May 3.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.