Roe under attack, time to fight back!
A national roundup of abortion rights protests
Tempest readers will have seen news of the leaked draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the U.S. While we knew this was coming, it is nevertheless an outrageous assault on the right to control our own bodies, lives, and futures for women and people who can become pregnant, and will disproportionately impact poor and working class people, especially people of color. If enacted, the decision would make abortion illegal in up to 26 states, including 13 states that have so-called “trigger laws” designed to immediately go into effect should Roe fall.
The fact that a body of nine unelected people can override the will of the sixty percent of people who support Roe v. Wade is testament to how deeply undemocratic this country really is. And it’s a wake-up call that the dominant strategy of lobbying and voting for Democrats to protect abortion rights that liberals have pursued for decades–even when that means supporting Democrats who oppose abortion–has failed.
Thankfully, from the moment the leak became public on Monday night, activists mobilized outside the Supreme Court, where police had immediately put up barricades in anticipation of the backlash. In the following days, thousands of people built emergency protests to oppose the draft decision, with even more planned this weekend. A national day of action has been called for May 14 by the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood. While the organizers of these events are likely to focus on the November midterms and getting out the vote (for Democrats), the protests themselves present an opportunity to build a mass, fighting abortion rights movement based on a different strategy–one that recognizes the need to mobilize the masses of people who want to defend abortion rights where it matters: in the streets. We need to urgently build and join ongoing grassroots organizations that can fight consistently for free abortion, on demand, and without apology, no matter who’s in office, and no matter what the court decides, and we need to get our unions on board, too. This is not only how other countries from Argentina to Mexico to Ireland have won and defended abortion rights in recent years–it’s also what it took to win and defend Roe in the first place. It will take no less today.
Below, we present a roundup of reports from some of the abortion rights protests that happened this week around the country, along with details about upcoming protests this weekend. Find one in your city or organize one and join us in the streets!
–Haley P. (for the Tempest Collective, Editorial Board)
Report by Shireen N. Akram-Boshar
Several thousand people came out to a protest and march in Boston organized by Socialist Alternative. Speakers from Socialist Alternative, Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), and health care workers spoke to the importance of defending Roe and why this would take mass mobilization, not relying on the Democratic Party, who are also to blame for the attacks on abortion rights. Boston Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) also had a contingent.
The event offered a socialist framework for winning reproductive justice.
Report by Linda Loew
Several hundred mostly very young people were out in the streets at Chicago’s Federal Plaza, expressing outrage at the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision intending to overturn Roe v. Wade.
All present, and many, many more will be out here again this coming Saturday, May 7 at 12 noon.
Join Chicago for Abortion Rights, Chicago NOW. IL NOW, Women’s March Chicago, and many others. See you Saturday. WE WON’T GO BACK!
Denver/ Fort Collins, CO
Report by James Radek
Yesterday, in the biggest local action we’ve seen under Biden, 1,500 people rallied and marched for abortion rights in Denver and 600 marched in Fort Collins. Planned Parenthood and PSL called overlapping actions, which made for a large, enthusiastic, and young crowd with a mix of radical and liberal politics.
Multiple speakers highlighted the repeated failure of the Democrats to protect and expand abortion access. Popular chants included: “We won’t go back! We will fight back!” and a classic throwback started by one of us, “Fuck Trump, fuck Biden too! They don’t give a fuck about you!” And “What do we want? Abortion rights!” got changed to “What do we want? Abortions!”
Denver Communists tabled, had a bunch of great conversations with newly activated young people, distributed our reproductive rights leaflet, and sold four books on gender liberation and socialism. Multiple actions are being planned for the coming days and we plan to support as many as possible, including another by PSL at the Capitol on Saturday, May 7 at 12 noon.
And we’ll be talking about the issue at a panel called “Liberation For All: Bodily Autonomy, Abortion Rights, and Trans Justice” at the RSOP – Revolutionary Socialist Organizing Project Conference on Saturday, June 3 at 11:15 a.m.
Report by Joel Sronce.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 3–less than 24 hours after news broke of the leaked SCOTUS opinion that could reverse Roe v. Wade–more than a thousand people descended on Philadelphia’s Center City for a rally to defend abortion rights. Many first gathered at the U.S. Courthouse before marching half a mile to City Hall, where they were joined by hundreds more. The action was co-organized by the Philly branch of Socialist Alternative, as well as a few other groups from across the city.
In addition to filling the steps, the square, and the entire intersection of JFK Boulevard and Broad Street, people climbed on top of an old subway entrance and the pedestal of a tall statue, chanting and waving signs with messages like “Bans Off Bodies,” “Separation between Vagina & State,” and the Philly Special: “Fuck this Jawn.”
Movement organizations and socialist groups set up tables, passing around sign-up sheets, newspapers, literature, and fliers for upcoming events. The propaganda did the work of linking intersecting struggles: uplifting the Abortion Liberation Fund; expressing solidarity with unionizing Amazon and Starbucks workers; and even promoting a talk in Philly by a Chilean miner, whose union is fighting against big mines devastating Indigenous communities and the local ecosystem.
The rally was undeniably multigender, multiracial, and multigenerational, though the median age was low, maybe in the early twenties. What’s more, perhaps because the action was called by left-wing groups, it seemed there were more radicals than liberals, or at least that the radical demands outmatched the liberal ones: the Democrats, too, were put on blast throughout much of the crowd’s messaging.
While it seemed that the throng might disperse when the lineup of speakers ended and the rally wavered, suddenly it swept into the streets. Spanning multiple city blocks, the crowd circled nearly all the way around City Hall, before heading down Broad Street, until it finally scattered.
Organizers in the city refuse to let the energy dissipate. On Thursday, two days later, a public discussion was called by Socialist Alternative, and more than 150 people turned out to learn, debate and build the most effective strategies for working-class resistance to the bipartisan abandonment of women’s rights that were won in the streets decades ago.
On Saturday, May 7 at 4 p.m., the next large rally will be held in Rittenhouse Square. The coalition organizing this action includes PSL Philly, Socialist Alternative, Worker’s World Party-Philadelphia, Drexel Women’s Empowerment Group, and Philly Neighborhood Network.
Long Beach, CA
Report by Dana Cloud
At 5 p.m. on May 3, about 250 activists gathered at the courthouse in Long Beach to protest the impending Supreme Court decision banning abortion in the United States. The group featured speakers, then chants, then a march that briefly took over downtown streets.
A student group from Cal State Long Beach named La FUERZA, Familia, Unidad, Educación, y Resistencia en nuestra Zona Autónoma (Family, Unity, Education, and Resistance in our Autonomous Zone) took a lead in this march. Unlike in other cities, policing was minimal, consisting of one patrol officer politely asking the group to only occupy one lane. He was ignored and basically gave up.
The rally was organized by Women’s March Long Beach.
Speakers emphasized the need to keep fighting and described how the impending ban affects people and disciplines our bodies. An interesting generational transition was evident. Participants were encouraged to use “people” or “people who can become pregnant” or other formulations to make sure trans and gender non-binary people who don’t identify as women were included.
Sheila Bates, a leader in Long Beach Black Lives Matter, delivered a very strong speech emphasizing the intersectional character of the discipline of reproduction in our society, mentioning people of color, the poor, trans and non-binary folks, and the historical efforts to control reproduction in ways that affect those groups disproportionately.
The students called for abortion justice in conjunction with abolition, while older (mostly white) women asked rally participants to focus on voting in elections. In spite of divergent perspectives, the march was unified and the conversation was productive.
It is clear that there is a rising generation of young activists who are making this broader political analysis and leading in militancy.
Speakers announced the national day of action on May 14.
Report by Benjamin Ratliffe
I was late for the DSA rendezvous before the 7 p.m. emergency rally at the state house in Madison, WI, organized by Socialist Alternative and the UW-Madison chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists. As I drove through the downtown corridor of the UW-Madison campus, along University Avenue, from every side street, I saw young people marching in little groups carrying homemade signs with a mix of laughter and looks of determination. Until seeing that, I’d been heading to the rally site out of a sense of commitment, but not with a great deal of hope.
Within the hour, the west lawn and steps of the State House held over 2,000 mostly young people. Socialists from DSA, Socialist Alternative, and the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) rolled out banners and staffed literature tables. Walking through and around that massive crowd, taking pictures, I didn’t hear much of what was being shared at the front, but numerous people proudly shared their stories of struggle with pregnancy and abortion, buoyed by cheers and shout outs from the crowd. Yvonne Gertz from IMT stepped up to the mic and excoriated the Democrats’ ineptitude and abandonment of abortion rights.
After about an hour of speeches, everyone turned to march down State Street toward the UW campus. I jumped up on a pedestal to get better video as people passed by and felt like I was on a speck of dry land in a wide river. It took about ten minutes for the human flood to pass.
I’m more hopeful today than I was yesterday and feel that hope could be kept alive if the organized forces in that crowd start finding a way to channel that more spontaneous energy.
New Haven, CT
Report by Eric Maroney
About 350-400 people gathered outside a federal courthouse. The rally was called by a local immigrant rights organization, Unidad Latina en Accion. The event was kicked off by a person who identified themselves as an undocumented trans-masculine veteran. Much of the event was held in both Spanish and English. The crowd was multigenerational and diverse.
DSA and Workers Voice/La Voz de los Trabajadores handed out propaganda leaflets.
New York, NY
Report by Yusuf Ahmad, Haley Pessin, and Sherry Wolf
About 3,000 people joined a 5 p.m. emergency rally at Foley Square in Manhattan, with a smaller protest happening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Organizers included a broad coalition of groups: the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, NY Abortion Access Front, Thank God for Abortion, New York City for Abortion Rights, and several others.
The mood was angry, with lots of young people, largely white (especially for NYC), though not entirely. Democrats like Attorney General Latisha James shared their own abortion stories, while arguing for voting as the main next step.
NYC DSA had a sizable showing and asserted the importance of showing up in the streets. However, a decision was made by the contingent organizers to focus their messaging on the threat posed by the Republicans and the Supreme Court, while avoiding criticizing the Democrats or saying anything about why we need to do more than just vote in November.
But that wasn’t the only message people in the crowd were open to hearing. A highlight was when NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams attempted to make positive reference to newly elected “tough on crime” Mayor Eric Adams and the crowd erupted in boos and chanted “Fuck Eric Adams”—a real New York moment. Toward the end of the rally, more left-wing speakers got on the mic, including Saige N from NYC for Abortion Rights (NYC4AR), who spoke about abortion as not only a women’s issue, but a right that must be defended for Black and Indigenous people, people of color, trans, non-binary, and queer people, and immigrants, to huge cheers from the crowd. They also noted that we can’t rely on the Democrats to save us and the need for direct action and community organizing to defend abortion rights. You can hear that speech here.
The march organizers had settled on a rally due to lack of a permit. However, as the rally began to die down, several hundred people marched toward Washington Square Park, anyway. The energy of that march was more radical, with chants about the courts, the church, and the Democrats that were mostly absent from the rally. At Washington Square Park, Socialist Alternative, Left Voice, and NYC4AR led speakouts.
This Saturday, May 7, there will be two events: 1) a counter protest against clinic invaders at 8:30 a.m. at Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Church (Mott & Prince St) organized by NYC4AR and 2) a public discussion on how we can defend abortion and LGBTQ rights at 12 p.m. at Union Square co-sponored by Left Voice, Socialist Alternative, and Tempest.
Report by Max Carey
I ended up at a rally organized by DSA Portland in a park downtown across from the courthouse. There were several hundred people there and tons of cars honking support as they drove by, sometimes almost drowning out the speakers. About a dozen people spoke, maybe half from DSA or YDSA.
The DSA speakers talked a lot about capitalism and the relationship between abortion and the reproduction of the labor force. They also talked about the need for marching in the streets and direct action, for example, by shuttling people from Idaho—which recently passed a draconian anti-abortion law—to Oregon so they can get abortions. They said that abortion is health care and called for Medicare for All to huge cheers, but got almost as much of a response when they said that this is class war. They didn’t talk about voting or elections except to say that the Democrats won’t save us, listing out actions that Democrats could have done but have refused to do, like packing the courts and ending the filibuster.
Of the other speakers, two were doctors, two were running for local office, and there were some others from the crowd. Several speakers said, “Old white men in Washington can’t control my body!” and talked about Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett; one speaker ended her speech by shouting, “Fuck the Supreme Court!” to thunderous applause.
Overall, there was a range of views, but the protest definitely tilted far left, with only one or two speakers mentioning voting. Many speakers made connections between abortion rights and other struggles like Black Lives Matter and trans rights. Some of the main chants were “Abortion is healthcare,” “Our bodies, our choice,” and “When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do? Rise up! Fight back!”
There was another rally organized by PSL later in the evening. Both of the major rallies in Portland were put on by socialists.
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