Coast to coast
Demonstrations demand reproductive justice
Hundreds of thousands of people were fired up when they turned out in the streets Oct. 2 in over 650 protests, in every state and Washington, D.C., to push back attacks on the legal right to abortion access and to demand reproductive justice. They responded to the Women’s March’s call for action issued by a coalition of 200 diverse organizations to “defend and mobilize for reproductive rights.”
These multinational, multigender and multigenerational demonstrations were spurred on by Texas’ almost complete ban on abortions, the most extreme in the U.S., and by the very real danger of a complete overturn by the U.S. Supreme Court. With its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization lawsuit, the state of Mississippi is pushing for the Court to nullify its own 1973 precedent-setting decision legalizing the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.
Banners from coast to coast carried the message, “Rally for abortion justice.” Placards read “My body, my choice!” The huge Washington, D.C., demonstration had a crowd and speakers composed of people from many communities and states. Protests denouncing the inhumane law were held in several Texas cities, including Austin, the capital.
These adamant and determined crowds demanded that SCOTUS uphold the right to access safe, legal abortions. They were angered by the high court’s violation of its previous ruling in Roe on Sept. 1, when the Court’s conservative majority refused to stop Texas from enforcing Senate Bill 8 banning most abortions, with no exceptions for rape and incest victims. The law’s bounty scheme incentivizes vigilantes to accuse and sue “helpers” of abortion seekers.
Texas’ racist, misogynist law is a direct attack on low-income, young and Black, Latinx and Indigenous women. It impacts people with various gender identities who can become pregnant. It denies individuals the right to make decisions about their medical care — and abortions are health care — and it tramples on their fundamental rights and bodily autonomy.
The ban has caused desperate pregnant people to travel hundreds of miles to obtain safe abortions. Their faces reveal the terror they feel, say pro-choice advocates and clinic staff. This is a deliberate move by the state to intimidate them and cause further distress.
The right wing has been scheming since 1973 to weaken and ultimately nullify legalization of abortion, as well as other gains won by people’s movements. The Trump administration deliberately appointed three conservative justices to do exactly that.
Pressure by an unyielding pro-choice mass movement forced a majority of Republican-appointed SCOTUS justices to legalize abortion in 1973. The only way to push back reactionaries in the courts, Congress and state governments — and the forces behind them — is to build an independent grassroots movement, keep the pressure on and continue to fight back.
The Oct. 2 protests show that people are fighting mad about the right-wing attack on their reproductive rights and are ready to defend access to abortion. Here are some highlights of U.S. demonstrations in which Workers World Party members and branches participated.
Some 2,500 people gathered at Franklin Park in Boston to demand safe abortion access for women and people of all genders. Demands of the day were “Abortion care is health care” and “Health care is a right!” Speakers raised the need to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which Congress passed in 1976 to block federal Medicaid funding for abortions. The only exceptions are if a pregnant person’s life is endangered or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
Speakers raised up the name of Rosie Jimenez, who died as a result of an illegal, botched abortion Oct. 3, 1977, in Texas. She was a 27-year-old college student about to graduate and had a 5-year-old daughter. The doctor she saw would not perform an abortion, because Medicaid would not pay for the procedure. In desperation, Jimenez went to Mexico for an abortion. A week later, she died from septic shock.
The somber and angry crowd chanted: “Down with the Hyde Amendment!” “We will not go back!”
In Syracuse, N.Y., 250 people marched from the local Planned Parenthood to the federal building. The crowd of many genders, generations and nationalities sparkled with anger and wit, with signs like “We are not ovary-acting!” A Planned Parenthood center in Syracuse was the first clinic in New York to provide abortion services after the state legalized abortion in 1970, three years before the Roe decision.
Rally speakers received enthusiastic applause from the mostly younger crowd when they shouted, “Transphobia, racism and classism have no place in the reproductive justice movement!” A message from Gov. Kathy Hochul affirmed the state government will prepare “New York as a safe haven for anyone from across the country needing safe abortion care.”
SeQuoia Kemp, an African American doula, pointed out that Black women spearheaded the reproductive rights movement to place abortion access in a larger context. Janice, a Black Lives Matter member, stressed the need for abortion, sex education and contraception access, as well as financial support for pregnancies that are desired.
About 500 people marched to Niagara Square in Buffalo, N.Y., to demand free, unrestricted access to abortions everywhere, in solidarity with the people of Texas. Demonstrators raised the importance of taking to the streets, to defend and expand access, and the need to include trans men, nonbinary people and other gender-nonconforming people in the fight.
The event, co-organized by student activists and organizers from the University at Buffalo, Queen City Feminists, Queen City Workers’ Center and WWP-Buffalo, featured a speech from progressive mayoral candidate India Walton.
WWP has a strong history in Buffalo of defeating right-wing attacks on abortion access. In 1992, WWP joined with LGBTQ+ and other forces to form Buffalo United for Choice. The coalition mounted a successful clinic defense and chased the anti-abortion extremists out of town.
Cleveland was the scene of over 2,000 militant people marching for abortion rights. Despite the Democratic Party dominating the pre-march rally, voices lifted in chants overwhelmed the politicians. The vast sea of youthful and older protesters glowed with determined resistance etched in their faces. Many carried colorful, creative signs that collectively expressed the need for a strong, relentless fightback to defeat the reactionary attack on the right to control one’s own body.
Thousands of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to join a rally in Foley Square in Manhattan, one of many held in New York City’s five boroughs. Youth as well as older people were present in a crowd that included Black, Latinx and Asian protesters, with a large number from the LGBTQ+ community.
Rally speakers denounced racism, misogyny and transphobia, asserting the intersectionality of these issues. Several announced their pronouns, recognizing various gender identities. Some politicians spoke.
WWP set up a literature table, and members circulated through the crowd, distributing 500 copies of Workers World newspaper. There was much interest in the front-page headline: “Free abortion on demand for ALL genders!” An individual took a WWP placard: “Down with the patriarchy, racism and capitalism!” to proudly pose for a picture. After the rally, a spirited crowd marched to Washington Square Park.
Over 200 reproductive-rights supporters gathered at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media, Pa. The rally, organized by the Delco Indivisible group, featured pro-choice legislators who are battling laws that attempt to mandate personhood rights to a fetus, such as a so-called “heartbeat law” to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Pennsylvania laws already place heavy restrictions on abortion access, including mandatory anti-abortion counseling and denial of abortions to minors without parental consent — particularly cruel given the fact of domestic rape. Several speakers stressed that consequences of anti-abortion legislation falls most heavily on Black and Brown people and on poor people, emphasizing the racist nature of the laws. Pa. State Rep. Chris Rabb spoke of his maternal ancestors, raped by their white-supremacist enslavers, and decried today’s patriarchal U.S.
Over 1,000 people marched from the Museum of Art down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to rally at Philadelphia City Hall. The crowd ranged from older activists, who had demonstrated for safe abortions before Roe, to younger people who held abortion as their legal right until the recent Texas ban.
Two physicians organized the event to raise awareness that making abortion legal does not make it accessible or affordable. Many marchers, including middle and high school students at their first demonstration, carried handmade signs, including “I wish my uterus shot bullets, so the government wouldn’t regulate it.” The banner of WWP-Philadelphia was well received with its message: “Reproductive Justice Now for People of ALL Genders. Down with Patriarchy, Racism and Capitalism!”
In Atlanta, a rally in “Liberty Plaza” across from the state capitol building started at 11 a.m., when a crowd of thousands filled that space; and people kept coming — LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming, diverse in nationality, age and abilities and overwhelmingly young.
After gathering with groups from Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice forces, at 12:30 p.m. the crowd marched and rolled to the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Sister Song, whose purpose is to “strengthen and amplify the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice,” was the rally’s main organizer.
The first ever Women’s March was held in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., when 100 people marched, from City Hall to Liza Jackson Park, to encouraging honks from cars passing by, with no counterprotesters along the way. At the park, marchers participated in voter registration, dancing and discussion. Speakers included Fort Walton Beach City Council member Kirby Locklear, Sonya Vasquez, Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman and others. The event was a huge success, promising many more in Okaloosa County.
WWP-Central Gulf Coast and the local Women’s March co-sponsored the day’s events in Pensacola, Fla. WWP members led 35 cars in three caravans through downtown — honking, waving and sporting signs with pro-choice and abortion rights slogans. Another group visited Graffiti Bridge, where political messages are traditionally painted, adorned the bridge with reproductive rights slogans and dropped a WWP banner.
The caravans rolled into the Bridge to rally with about 125 people — young, older, multinational, multigender. A few anti-choice bigots showed up; months earlier organizers of the Oct. 2 march had put an end to an anti-abortion group’s menacing weekly picket at a Pensacola’s women’s clinic. The harassers tried to disrupt the rally but were easily drowned out by crowd chants.
Speakers included Jamil Davis of Black Voters Matter, Allison F. of Women’s March-Pensacola and WWP, and Shannon D. of WWP. WWP zines and papers were eagerly sought, and people applauded WWP demands, especially “no forced sterilizations,” “reproductive justice for incarcerated people” and “free childcare.”
Almost 15,000 people took to the streets in Houston to thoroughly condemn the Texas ban on abortion and to demand control over their own bodies.
One of the highlights from the podium was television celebrity Padma Lakshmi, currently in town to film “Top Chef,” who asserted that everyone — male, female and gender-nonconforming — should have control of their own bodies. Lakshmi told the wildly cheering crowd, “I was three years old when Roe happened. I can’t believe I’m fighting for the same right, but fight we must!”
The crowd was spectacularly diverse with crowds of women, many with children; LGBTQ+ people; Aztec dancers; a trans contingent; women construction workers in their hard hats; men; and several generations of families marching together. The people in the streets were the heroes of the day, particularly throngs of young people expressing outrage and anger in their signs.
Since the Sept. 1 Texas “ban” law, Gov. Greg Abbott has signed another bill barring doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs to those who are over seven weeks pregnant.
A San Antonio crowd of several thousands expressed its outrage through a “Bans Off Our Bodies” march. The demonstrators were mainly young, mostly Latinx, reflecting the city’s population. They marched past City Hall and the San Antonio Immigration Court, as construction workers on the third story of one building shouted down to them, “We love y’all.” The march was organized by a broad coalition including Planned Parenthood, Texas Organizing Project, Lilith Fund, Southwest Workers Union, Women’s March San Antonio and Women’s March Central Texas.
Some 1,000 multigender, multigenerational and multinational people rallied at the city and county building in Salt Lake City to protest the recent Texas law that has intensified white supremacy and gender oppression. After organizations such as Black Lives Matter-Salt Lake City spoke out against this repression from the podium, the march made its way to the state capitol building where more protesters joined the outcry.
Demands for reproductive rights for all rocked the Bay Area during the Oct. 2-3 weekend. On Saturday 10,000 people from the Northern California area marched down San Francisco streets from Civic Center Plaza to the Embarcadero. The march was organized and endorsed by a broad array of government and community organizations, such as Planned Parenthood-Northern California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender District SF and SF Human Rights Commission. Smaller marches were held throughout the South and East Bay areas.
On Sunday a smaller but more radical and inclusive rally, the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice, gathered at the San Francisco Federal Building. The demands included: repeal the Hyde Amendment; stop forced sterilizations; no to caged kids, forced assimilation and child welfare abuses; and defend queer and trans families. Initiated by the Bay Area Freedom Socialist Party, the rally was endorsed by Raging Grannies, WWP-Bay Area, People’s Strike Bay Area and others.
Speakers emphasized that the only way to win reproductive rights was to organize a broad mass movement in the streets to demand these rights for all genders.
As over 1,000 demonstrators gathered at Revolutionary Hall for Portland’s March for Reproductive Rights, a diverse group of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian and nonbinary speakers addressed issues related to abortion access and denounced Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion bill.
Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an obstetrician-gynecologist, spoke on the importance of abortion for the health and wellness of many of her clients.
Another speaker reported her history as a “Jane” in the pre-Roe era, when her women’s group learned how to perform abortions when there were no alternatives pre-Roe. People in desperate situations came to the Jane Collective (originally known as the Abortion Counseling Service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union) as a last resort for then-illegal abortion services.
After the rally, protesters spilled into the streets for an unpermitted march, with signs like “Pro-life is not pro-child; it’s pro-forced birth.” They chanted “Trans, Black, Indigenous rights, lives! They matter here!” A security team on bicycles and motorcycles blocked traffic and prevented attacks by counterdemonstrators.
In Seattle about 3,000 demonstrators rallied downtown, while a large group of young demonstrators held a breakaway march through Pike Place Market and were wildly applauded.
Contributors to this article were Becks, Devin Cole, Shelley Ettinger, Judy Greenspan, Sue Harris, Marie Kelly, Dianne Mathiowetz, Jim McMahan, Betsey Piette, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Arjae Red, Gloria Rubac, Susan Schnur, Carlos Splitstoser, Joanna Straughn and the WW Boston bureau.