WASHINGTON (AP) — Supporters of abortion rights took to the streets across America on Saturday to make clear their anger at the prospect that the Supreme Court will soon strike down the constitutional right to abortion. Cries of "My body, my choice" rang out as activists committed to fighting for what they called reproductive freedom.
Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the conservative majority on the court would vote to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists rallied to express their outrage and mobilize for the future as Republican-led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.
In the nation's capital, thousands gathered at the Washington Monument before marching to the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by two layers of security fences.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's "dissent" collar on it and a necklace that spelled out "vote."
"I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don't think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life," Loehr said.
From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in "Bans off our Bodies" events. Organizers expected that among the hundreds of events, the largest would take place in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other big cities.
"If it's a fight they want, it's a fight they'll get," Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women's March, said before the march.
Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say. If that happens, roughly half of states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.
"I was already starting to self harm and I would have rather died than have a baby," said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
At that rally, speaker after speaker told the crowd that if abortion is banned that the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be "gutted," as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori lightfoot put it.
"This has never been just about abortion. It's about control," Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. "My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen," she added.
The upcoming high court ruling in a case from Mississippi stands to energize voters, potentially shaping the upcoming midterm elections.
In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined demonstrators just days before early voting begins in her primary runoff against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. The race could be one of the first tests over whether the court leak will galvanize voters.
In Chicago, Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse toting daughters ages 1 and 3, agreed about the need to vote. "As much as federal elections, voting in every small election matters just as much," she said.
Saturday's rallies come three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade. Sponsors included the Women's March, Move On, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn, SEIU and other organizations.