Protests against the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to overturn the nearly 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade are set to culminate Saturday with a nationwide “day of action” featuring marches, rallies and speakers in dozens of cities.
The “Bans Off Our Bodies” daylong event is organized by groups including Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
“We’re coming together this weekend with a powerful message those who wish to control our bodies and our futures: Keep your bans off our bodies,” said Planned Parenthood national organizing director Brianna Twofoot.
More than 15,000 protesters are expected to gather in downtown Washington, according to a permit filed with the National Park Service. They plan to march from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol Building, UltraViolent organizer Sonja Spoo told USA TODAY.
“Come expecting to learn a lot from the folks who are speaking onstage and build community with those around you,” Spoo said.
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Some of the largest “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstrations are expected in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, according to organizers.
Saturday’s events will come after nearly two weeks of protests after the leak of a draft opinion to overturn the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
The demonstrations are a “show of solidarity” to declare that “no courts, no politicians and no bans should ever take your freedom and right to make personal medical decisions, including your right to abortion,” Twofoot said.
The Supreme Court verified the authenticity of the leaked draft opinion last week but said it did not represent the court’s final view.
Planned Parenthood began organizing a nationwide “day of action” on May 14 months before the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe, Twofoot said.
“We now know the truth. The Supreme Court plans to soon overturn Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by as they roll back our rights,” said Twofoot, who added she has seen protests every day since the news broke about the draft opinion on May 2.
Demonstrators in Washington have voiced their anger at justices outside the U.S. Supreme Court building and on the front lawns of homes owned by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, according to one group’s Twitter account.
Organizers for Saturday’s events in Washington, D.C. said abortion rights demonstrators should avoid engaging with counterprotesters. In recent weeks, anti-abortion demonstrators have rallied outside the Supreme Court building and have celebrated the leaked draft opinion.
“Our folks will keep peaceful. … We’re also educating folks who are attending our events about not engaging, staying focused on what our message is,” Spoo said. “No one is going to win any hearts and minds by arguing back and forth across the picket line.”
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Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department told USA TODAY in a statement that it plans to have a “visible” presence around the city.
“As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring and assessing the planned activity with our local and federal law enforcement partners” Officer Sean Hickman said in a statement.
Twofoot said demonstrators should read up on safety tips available at the “Bans Off Our Bodies” website.
With the Supreme Court’s official ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization expected in a few weeks, abortion access for millions of Americans remains uncertain. Political experts warn the ideological battles over abortion post-Roe could become dominated by efforts to further restrict access to the abortion pill, which is used in at least 54% of terminated pregnancies in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Contributing: John Fritze, Elizabeth Weise, Candy Woodall, Rick Rouan, Chelsey Cox, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Grace Hauck and Chris Kenning, USA TODAY