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The Women’s March holds nationwide rallies on Roe’s 50th anniversary

The Women’s March holds nationwide rallies on Roe’s 50th anniversary

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With signs declaring “Abortion is a health care” and chants of fight back, activists in dozens of cities across the country rallied in support of abortion rights on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. the landmark decision that was overturned by the Supreme Courtremoving the constitutional right to abortion.

The events, expected to draw thousands from Honolulu to Hartford, make up the latest iteration of the Women’s March, the series of protests that began in 2017 after the election of President Donald J. Trump. They followed him closely The March for Life in Washington, D.C. the annual anti-abortion demonstration that on Friday turned into victory rally celebrating the rollback of Roe.

In Texas, which led the way strict bans on abortion even before the fall of Roe, demonstrators gathered in downtown Dallas at John F. Kennedy Memorial Square. In Boston, people rallied for abortion rights in the nation’s oldest public park, Boston Common. In Florida, which prohibits abortion after 15 weeksmore than a dozen events were planned.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an event hosted by Planned Parenthood in Tallahassee, Florida. In her speech, Ms. Harris condemned Florida’s “extremist” Republicans and “so-called leaders” for abortion restrictions and rules that force health care providers “to risk going to jail just for doing their job.” .

She said President Biden has signed a memorandum directing government agencies to consider how the federal government can remove legal barriers to providers prescribing abortion drugs.

“Let us not grow weary or discouraged,” said Ms. Harris. “Because we’re on the right side of history.”

The marches, seen as a way to engage newer activists and energize their ranks for a long fight ahead, also drew veterans like Diana Wiener, 82, who appeared at the New York event with the handmade sign she carries at protests of five years. The caption reads “Never again.”

Ms. Wiener said she had an illegal abortion in the Bronx in 1959, more than a decade before Roe v. Wade, an experience that fueled her anger at the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn it and her concern that too little younger women are engaged in the fight for women’s rights.

“They have no idea what happened before — we really didn’t have birth control,” she said. The court ruling “will not stop abortions, it will only kill women,” she added.

In Madison, Wisconsin, the day’s event, thousands of women in thick coats and pink hats marched down State Street, the crowd quickly doubling, then tripling, despite the 26-degree cold. Among the protesters was Kim Schultz, 63, a first-timer at the Women’s March who said she felt obligated to be there after the loss of Roe’s defense.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s a step back too far. I was just stunned and angry that we could go back in time like that.”

National organizers of the Women’s March said their emphasis on widespread local action — about 200 are planned in 46 states — reflects the recent loss of federal protection and the paramount importance now of condition politics.

“The fight at the federal level just has nowhere to go,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, the advocacy group that grew out of the first march. “The theater of battle has shifted away from national defenses, which have been gutted. All the fights for the coming years will be at the state level.”

Anti-abortion activists showed up at more than one event. In Dallas, a middle-aged man wearing white clothes spattered with red, apparently meant to look like blood, blasted gospel music from a microphone. In Madison, a lone counterprotester held a sign with images of what appeared to be fetal tissue. Marchers rushed to cover his sign with a Black Lives Matter banner.

Michelle Anderson, 52, who joined the march in Dallas, said black women should always fight harder for the right to control their own bodies, even before Roe was overturned. “White women won’t do what they need to do — they’re afraid to vote against their privilege — so we’re going to keep going through this until they do,” she said.

Many local events were led by emerging activists with little or no previous experience, offering “a vital opportunity for them to enter the movement and deepen their connection to politics,” said Tamika Middleton, managing director of the Women’s March. “We want to make the barrier to activism very low for them to jump over.”

The organization plans to build on that start, she said, as it has done in past actions, engaging fledgling activists in ongoing conversations and offering training and mentoring to develop their skills and create lasting networks.

“It’s so important to build infrastructure in the states now for the election in two years’ time,” Ms Middleton said.

The first Women’s March, which took place on January 21, 2017, the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, drew millions to the streets of Washington and other cities across the country and the world to protest misogyny and stand up for for reproductive and civil rights. The global event again saw a huge turnout in January 2018, but attendance declined in 2019. after accusations of anti-Semitism among some of her leadership.

The coronavirus pandemic has further limited the Women’s March’s ability to hold events and draw crowds. But after the shock of Roe’s ruling, organizers said, an infusion of new energy propelled it forward with strong showings at events held in May after the court’s decision expired and became public, and again in October to rally support in the former the midterm elections.

Organizers narrowed the focus of Sunday’s march from a broad range of feminist causes to the fight for abortion access. They focused specifically on the event in Madison, in anticipation of a special election in April in the state that could change the makeup of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and help determine future abortion access.

Opening the speeches in Madison, Ms. Middleton, managing director of the Women’s March, dispelled the notion that women activists are mired in grief.

“The other side thinks we should mourn today,” Ms Middleton said, drawing boos from the crowd. “They don’t know us. Today, we remind them that our fight was never just about Roe — our fight is for full reproductive freedom.

Not all women’s rights groups were planning a march. In Los Angeles, Emiliana Gereka, founder of the Women’s March Foundation, an independent nonprofit, said she is instead hosting a screening of the documentary “The Janes,” followed by a panel discussion.

The HBO documentary focuses on the women activists who banded together to form Jane, an illegal group that provided safe abortions in the years before Roe v. Wade.

“We need to go to the offices of state legislators, not on the weekend,” Ms. Gereka said, “and bring them in and talk to them about what they’re doing to protect reproductive rights.”

In downtown Atlanta, at an event organized by the NAACP and other groups to mark the anniversary of Roe but unrelated to the Women’s March, a crowd of dozens held placards that read “Regulate Guns, Not Women ‘ and ‘Repeal Georgia’s abortion ban.’ The state bans abortions after six weeks — before many women realize they are pregnant. Sunday’s turnout was strikingly smaller than at a march held over the summer on the heels of Roe’s reversal, when thousands marched into the city.

Peyton Hayes, an organizer with the Socialist and Liberation Party, said the smaller crowd didn’t mean anyone had given up. Looking ahead, she said, activists should pressure the Republican-controlled state legislature to end the abortion ban.

In New York, where protesters made their way down Broadway, chanting and dodging pedestrians, Bruna Monia, 35, recalled crying when she first heard Rowe had been overturned. Ms Monia welcomed her first child Alice 18 months ago and said she was fighting for her daughter’s rights as well as her own.

“She should have the right to choose what to do with her body,” she said.

Thea Kvetenadze, Sean KeenanDea Berry Mitchell and Vic Joly contributed reporting.

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