WASHINGTON, DC — The response came Friday quickly and furiously after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion.
Anger and dismay first erupted outside the Supreme Court moments after the decision was announced.
It quickly spread east as devastated abortion rights protesters across the country rioted against conservative judges who erased half a century of precedent and made access to abortions virtually impossible in many states.
Protests took place in the plaza in front of the Federal Building in downtown Chicago, outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta and across from the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, where thousands of outraged protesters held placards and chanted, “My body! My choice!” In Flint, Michigan, hundreds blocked the sidewalks in front of the Genesee County Prosecutor’s office.
“I’m expecting at least tens of thousands of people in outbursts across the country tonight,” said Coco Das, the Texas organizer who is a member of the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights group.
Speaking from Austin, Das described the anger as “visceral”.
As Das spoke, police, equipped with riot shields and wearing helmets, were deployed to courthouses and other rallying points across the country where protesters gathered.
Large demonstrations were reported in Richmond, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Colombia, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina and Topeka, Kansas.
There were also demonstrations outside the US embassies in London and Ottawa, Canada.
In New York City, thousands of protesters gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square and began marching toward Washington Square Park.
“Abortion is health care, health care is a right,” many chanted in the crowd.
One of the protesters was 16-year-old Anura Bracey, who was carrying a sign that read ‘Knock Roe over? Hell No’.
“I’m furious,” Bracey said. “I am terrified of what this means for the birth of people in the country.”
Bracey said she feels lucky to live in a state where the right to abortion is still protected, but said she fears the Supreme Court may focus on other rights, including marriage equality.
“So I’m just here to express my anger,” Bracey said. “I want someone to listen to us. I don’t know how much this is really going to do, but I just feel really desperate.”
Claire Alcus, 25, said she felt nauseous when she heard the verdict.
“I don’t worry too much about myself because I have access to the right birth control,” she said. “But I just feel so awful for women who probably share the feelings I have that I’m not ready for a kid who doesn’t have access to the kind of care they need to live their lives the way I can.”
Back in Washington, a weeping woman who asked to be identified only as Skye cried openly after the decision was announced.
“It feels like betrayal,” Skye said. “It feels like my country doesn’t love me and doesn’t appreciate my body as a woman. I can’t even sing because I can’t say anything. It hurts.”
“It feels like we’re going backwards,” she said.
Amanda Herring, 32 and nine months pregnant, showed up with her 1-year-old son Abraham and the words “Not a man yet” written in ink across her swollen belly.
Haring, a Jewish educator who said her due date is Saturday, considers the Supreme Court ruling an infringement of her religion.
“I feel it’s important for me to be here and let everyone know that my religion says life begins with the first breath,” she said. “It’s in the Torah and it’s in the Old Testament.”
Hanna Fredeen, who was in high school in 1973 when Roe became law, said she remembers a classmate having to travel to another country for an abortion. She said poor women in states where the procedure is now banned will be forced to have abortions or do it themselves with knitting needles.
“Women are dying,” said another protester, Michelle. “It’s just very disappointing.”
Nearby, Lauren Handy of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising was part of a smaller crowd celebrating a Supreme Court decision that ended conservatives’ decades-long struggle to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
“It’s a rollercoaster of emotions,” Handy says. “Complete and utter joy that it was finally destroyed.”
Handy added: “The battle is not over yet.”
“The industrial abortion complex is strong in blue states, and we need to go after them too,” Handy said.
Now that Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land, abortion is protected in less than half of the states and none of the U.S. territories, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Before the Supreme Court ruling was announced, Republican lawmakers in the South and Midwest passed “trigger laws” that would make abortion illegal once Roe was quashed.
Louisiana’s “trigger law” went into effect immediately, Attorney General Jeff Landry said.
Texas was already pushing back abortions before the Supreme Court ruling was announced.
And in Arkansas, the Department of Health issued a notice Friday warning doctors that performing abortions is now a felony.
In Illinois, abortion rights are protected by the Reproductive Health Act of 2019† But abortion providers fear clinics will be overrun with people from out of state because several neighboring countries have “trigger laws.”
New Jersey is another Democrat-led state that took steps to strengthen abortion rights ahead of the ruling when Governor Phil Murphy signed the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act.
“Make no mistake, the decision goes beyond abortion,” said Elizabeth Meyer, founder of Women’s March in New Jersey. “We may be protected in New Jersey, you know, but we’re sure it won’t be elsewhere.”
Meyer said she should break the news to her 9- and 11-year-old daughters that the constitutional right she grew up with is now gone for them.
“I’m scared for my daughters’ future and what it could mean for them,” Meyer said.
Maura Barrett and Doha Madani reported from Washington DC, Elliot Lewis from New Haven, Conn., Daniella Silva and Corky Siemaszko from New York City.