Protesters begin gathering as nationwide ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rallies for abortion rights start Saturday

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WASHINGTON — Protesters are gathering in the nation’s capital and rallies are planned in hundreds of cities on Saturday to protest after a Supreme Court leaked draft opinion shows the court may overturn the nearly 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

More than 380 “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstrations for abortion rights are planned, with the largest expected in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, according to organizers. Sponsors of the daylong event include Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, UltraViolet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Planned Parenthood began organizing the nationwide “day of action” months before a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision leaked sparking celebrations from anti-abortion demonstrators and protests outside the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by a security fence, and the Justice’s homes.

The protests come days after the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have enshrined a nationwide right to abortion.

In Washington, abortion rights supporters gathered near the Washington Monument Saturday said they doubted the conservative Supreme Court would change course and vote to uphold Roe vs. Wade. But they said they wanted their voices heard.

Demonstrators gathered under cloudy skies and occasional drizzle. Rain is forecast throughout the afternoon, with temperatures around 70 degrees. As a result, many attendees wore ponchos and carried umbrellas.

“I am here to just support women, and to encourage the Supreme Court not to rescind our constitutional right,” said Sandra Harrington, 61, a retired public education administrator from Warrenton, Va.

 “We can put some pressure on them,” she continued. “I, unfortunately, do think it’s a done deal, and I’m terribly sad about that.”

More than 15,000 protesters are expected to attend the rally in downtown Washington, according to a permit filed with the National Park Service. 

Supporters wearing pro-Roe t-shirts gathered at the stage where speakers are scheduled to address the crowd shortly after noon before demonstrators march down Constitution Avenue more than 15 blocks to the Supreme Court building itself to make a direct appeal on the abortion issue. 

Demonstrators gather before the 'Bans off our Bodies' abortion rights rally in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

“I’m here for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter,” said Jen Giordano, 51, a salesperson who traveled from Mt. Pleasant, S.C., on Saturday morning to attend the D.C. rally.

A growing crowd has also formed in Cleveland, Ohio chanting phrases including “O-H-I-O abortion bans have got to go’ according to images of the scene shared on social media.

Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend a rally in Chicago, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.

“I was already starting to self harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at nyanceybra@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg