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Thousands of pro-choice activists from different corners of America descended on Washington, DC, 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 of the Women’s March, warned it would be a “summer of rage” as she spoke at the event at the National Mall.
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“We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, the ungovernable,” Carmona said, leading those present into an “ungovernable” chant. “That’s why we’re taking to the streets today in cities across the country. That’s why today isn’t just a day of action. It’s simply the first day of a invigorated movement lined up behind a simple request, and you all heard it, keep your bans off our bodies!”
“Today is the first day of an uprising to protect abortion rights,” Carmona said. “This is the first day of our feminist future and this is the first day of a summer of rage where we will be ungovernable, ungovernable. And we won’t stop until the politicians on our side start acting like if they were 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 on the “streets this summer keep fighting”.
Council member for the District of Columbia, Janeese Lewis George, also attended the event, calling for free abortion procedures and telling the crowd that if Roe v. Wade is overthrown, “working class people and families will die”.
“Toppling Roe will hurt black, brown indigenous communities,” George said. “Abortion costs money and is unaffordable for so many people who cannot travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get an abortion.”
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“Let’s be clear, right now they’re just coming for our freedom, our autonomy,” she said. “And they won’t stop there. This fight is a fight where we all have to stick together because they’re coming for marriage equality, they’re coming for gay rights, they’re coming for trans rights. This fight is all about Us. Working class people and families will die if this happens. They will suffer. History tells us.
Closing his speech, George urged those present to “stand up” and “fight back”.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, also spoke at the event and said the nation is in a “moment of crisis,” taking aim at “radical Supreme Court justices and right-wing extremists” who , she says, have made it “clear that they won’t stop until a national ban is enacted.”
“We’re here to say loud and clear: Keep these bans out of our bodies,” Lee said. “Our right to make our own decisions about our bodies may be taken away from us. Like many of you, I’m scared, yes I’m upset, yes I’m angry. We fought these battles 50 years ago . … But we are moving forward because we understand this radical right and we have to fight them again. But fight we will.”
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade as legal precedent, abortion restrictions fall to state legislatures — many of which have enacted “trigger laws” to restrict abortion if Roe is overturned. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that a 15-week federal abortion ban is “possible” if Roe is overturned.
“If they pick us up today, they pick you up tomorrow,” Lee said. “So don’t think these bans aren’t an attempt to further erode our personal freedoms and our democracy.”
Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as April Verrett, president of the California chapter of the SEIU, took the stage to address the “crisis of our bodies”.
“Working-class women — black, Latina, Asia-Pacific Islander, indigenous and white — are already struggling to make ends meet,” Henry said. “April and I know that a lot of these women are structured into jobs that are poverty-paying jobs because of corporate power and systemic racism. And these same working-class cowboys of all races can’t stand allow a plane, train, or bus ticket to another state just to get the health care they deserve.”
Echoing Henry, Verrett said “We’re not just going to stand” and vowed to “mobilise”.
“We will raise our voices,” she said. “Now is the time to act. We will fight back.”
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“It is absolutely un-American to deny women this basic constitutional right,” Verrett added. “All of us, each of us, have a horse in this race. We all have something at stake in this fight.”
Several pro-choice activists from different faith-based organizations also attended the event and spoke out in favor of legal protections for abortion.
Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, told the hearing on Saturday that the “religious right” has dominated religious discourse on abortion.
“Spoiler alert: Jews have abortions, Christians have abortions, Muslims have abortions, believers and non-believers have abortions,” Katz said. “Right now, people across the country who are already marginalized are facing the inhuman reality that they could be forced into pregnancy, a life-altering and potentially life-threatening condition. One forced pregnancy is one too many.
“For too long, this country has allowed a small but vocal group on the religious right to dominate the narrative around abortion and religion, claiming abortion access is a violation of religious freedom” , Katz said. “So we’re asking them whose religious freedom are you trying to protect? Not mine. Judaism not only allows abortion, but requires it when the life of the pregnant person is in danger.”
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Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice and a self-proclaimed “proud queer, lesbian, Catholic,” said she represents the “68% of Catholics who don’t want to see Roe toppled.”
“I support abortion access because of my Catholic faith, not in spite of it,” she said. “Abortion bans create deep suffering among those already oppressed by sinful structures of racism, gender inequality, economic insecurity and immigration restrictions. Catholics are learning a theology of social justice and abortion bans are the opposite of justice.What we are seeing right now in the Supreme Court is the result of a religious outburst led by Catholic bishops, allegedly single men who will never, ever be pregnant. “
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” event comes nearly two weeks after a draft notice disclosed of the Supreme Court noted Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling that grants federal abortion protections, may soon be in danger of being overturned. The draft opinion, written by Judge Samuel Alito, was written in February.