Thousands in the streets for ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rallies in hundreds of cities


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Source: Liberation

Photo by Mark A Lee/Shutterstock

 

Just days after the U.S. Senate voted down the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have made abortion legal everywhere in the country and eliminated the question of the Supreme Court’s ruling, tens of thousands of women and others came out in spirited defense of abortion rights at the May 14  “Bans Off Our Bodies” protests initiated by Planned Parenthood.

Many participants were angered by how the Democrats are using the issue of abortion as a political bargaining chip to fundraise and bring out voters for the midterm elections. As pointed out in a leaflet distributed by Party for Socialism and Liberation: “The Democrats declined to act forcefully to make the WHPA pass. They instead used it as a symbolic vote to help boost their midterm election campaigns.”

In cities large and small, people came out into the the streets and Liberation News was there.

Washington, D.C.

Tens of thousands descended on the National Mall and marched to Congress and the Supreme Court on Saturday afternoon to make it clear that the United States will not go back into a world with unsafe and illegal abortions. The Party for Socialism and Liberation led a socialist contingent within the march, leading chants and speaking to attendees who came from around the country to participate in the rally and march. The speakers raised concerns around abortion access and the war on women being interconnected to transgender liberation and the fight for D.C. statehood. The struggle for statehood has prevented the District from having full legal autonomy over governance, including access to abortion and reproductive care.

New York City

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers gathered in Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn. PSL member Karina Garcia was one of many speakers at the event, asserting that “delivery workers, truck drivers, nurses, education workers, healthcare workers … every single person in society should have universal human rights — but we’ve got to get organized!” After the rally, protesters marched to the New York State Courthouse, completely shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge along the way.

San Francisco

in San Francisco, 10,000 people marched from Civic Center to the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco in response to a call from Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March. Several local organizations, including the Bay Area branch of the PSL, joined the action to call attention to the abhorrent history of the Supreme Court, and to emphasize how critical a mass movement of people is in the struggle for not only reproductive rights, but all health care.

Many protesters carried signs, wore t-shirts, and echoed chants that highlighted the undemocratic nature of the Supreme Court as an institution and expressed disgust at this attack on hundreds of millions of people’s rights to abortion.

Boston

Thousands rallied in downtown Boston for abortion rights, after which 500 joined a march led by the Boston branch of PSL. The marchers went around downtown and had a speak out at the state house despite the hot weather.

Rachel Domond, an organizer with Boston PSL, told the crowd: “The Democratic Party has only ever seen abortion rights as a bargaining chip in politics … Back in 2009 and 2010, the Democrats had an even larger majority in the Senate. Then too, the Democrats could’ve adopted legislation [to] enshrine into federal law our right to abortion forever. That is exactly why we cannot simply wait until November to see what happens.”

Western Massachusetts

At noon last Saturday, Valley Women’s March in collaboration with Planned Parenthood hosted a rally on the steps of the Northampton City Hall in Western Massachusetts. The rally was cosponsored by local health clinics, activist organizations, youth groups and several local representatives. Many local organizations were invited to send speakers, notably including speakers from Springfield ARISE for Social Justice, Tapestry Health, River Valley DSA, and the Western Mass PSL branch.

Rhode Island

Aound 600 people gathered at the state Supreme Court in Providence for a rally called by Rhode Island Planned Parenthood. After the rally, about 200 people marched from the Rhode Island Supreme Court quad to the Rhode Island State House.

PSL Rhode Island joined as a socialist contingent at the rally. PSL organizers brought energy to the rally with spirited chants. During the march to the Rhode Island state house, the socialist contingent of  PSL, led in the front with the banner “Legal Abortion Once and for All.” After reaching the state house, PSL organizer Meylin pointed out that  “Roe v. Wade was not given to us. We took it!”

Atlanta

Over 3,000 people crowded into Atlanta’s Liberty Plaza, in sight of the state capitol, to say “Bans off Our Bodies!” and demand that Georgia’s leaders reflect the will of the people and fund reproductive care!

Laura Rivera from the Shutdown Folkston ICE Processing Center campaign reminded the crowd that, “Mass incarceration is a big reproductive justice issue,” with abortions being very hard to get in custody and women falling victim to abusive medical providers in detention centers across Georgia. “Free them all!” the crowd yelled.

Salt Lake City

Planned Parenthood organized a rally outside the Utah State Capitol building Saturday, where some 2,000 people came out to protest. Party for Socialism and Liberation – Salt Lake showed up with a strong presence and a powerful speech connecting reproductive rights to the history of struggle and the need for a socialist future. Deja N. Gaston, a PSL organizer, took to the microphone to call for a system that will provide access to food, housing, and healthcare and that will protect the rights of women, trans, and gender-non-conforming people. “And for me, that’s a socialist system!” she said to a cheering crowd.

Austin, Texas

In Austin, Planned Parenthood and other non-profit organizations called a rally at the capitol on May 14 that drew hundreds of people. Democratic Party politicians spoke alongside community organizers. PSL organizers engaged with the crowd by carrying banners and signs, handing out leaflets on the importance of the struggle, and signing up protesters to get alerts about future actions. Hundreds of protesters marched from the capitol and other parts of the city to protest a nearby rally where Donald Trump was speaking. The following day, May 15, PSL organizers led a group of 200 people at the capitol in a rally that demanded an expansion of Roe v Wade. While Democratic politicians focused on the importance of voting in the midterms, even as their own party voted down abortion protections, PSL members pointed out in the following day’s protest that this is too little too late for people who need abortions now; and that defending and expanding Roe will require a sustained movement of millions.

Dallas

Over a thousand people across North Texas gathered both Saturday and Sunday for the third consecutive weekend to defend abortion access. The events of the 14th and 15th were spurred on by calls from well-known nonprofits and spread across social media platforms, drawing out the largest crowds yet. Attendees included prominent Democratic politicians who have promised to protect abortion access for Texans. Militancy is growing among Texans rallying around the “Bans Off Our Bodies” slogan.

Houston

In Houston, Texas, hundreds of people gathered in downtown for a march to city hall. The action was called by the Hoochies of Houston. A speaker from the organization took to the mic to decry the right wing’s war on women, especially women of color: “America the great has been trying to shackle the uterus that grows inside of me. Is this truly the land of the free? It’s honestly disgraceful that the same country that wants to force pregnant people to have unwanted babies is the same country that allows its Black newborns to die at 3 times the rate of its white newborns. It’s truly disgusting that the same country that wants to potentially file murder charges against people who have abortions is the very same country that allows cops to shoot and kill Black and Brown people with no regard or consequences.” The action was protested by several right-wing religious groups, but those in support of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy far outnumbered them and they eventually went home.

San Antonio

Some 3,000 people in San Antonio came out to the Bans Off Our Bodies protest. The rally included the mayor, outgoing county judge, and other elected officials, as well as leaders of nonprofits like Planned Parenthood, Lilith Fund and AVOW. Members of PSL passed out flyers for next weekend’s protest and led chants to keep people energized and pumped about collective action.

San Diego

On May 14 more than 5,000 people gathered at the San Diego Hall of Justice for a rally and march called by Planned Parenthood Pacific Southwest and Women’s March San Diego. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Alternative and several other community organizations formed contingents in the march.

Then, on May 15, the Party for Socialism and Liberation hosted an Abortion Rights Town Hall at the San Diego Justice Center featuring Planned Parenthood activists and socialist congressional candidate Jose Cortes. PSL member Michaela Malone told an energized crowd that, “The Democratic Party can’t even fight Joe Manchin, so we can’t expect them to fight for abortion rights!”

Denver

This weekend in Denver, there were actions on both Saturday and Sunday to defend Roe v Wade and abortion access. On Saturday, Planned Parenthood led a rally that was followed by a march led by the PSL. About 800 marched through downtown Denver. The next day, an action for Palestine on Nakba day and another in support of Roe were scheduled for the same time at the capitol in Denver. Instead of holding separate actions, the two groups joined together and marched through Denver, chanting “Free Palestine!” and “legalize abortion now!” Palestinian flags flew next to signs that said “Defend Roe v Wade!” Both groups pledged to continue the struggle for liberation. As one speaker said, “One struggle, one fight! We won’t got back, we will fight!”

Washington state

Thousands of people gathered in Seattle at Cal Anderson Park for a rally called by Planned Parenthood. Following the march, a large socialist feminist contingent that included members of Socialist Alternative, Seattle DSA, Freedom Socialist Party and PSL marched through the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Chants of “Democrats, talk is cheap — build a movement in the streets” rang out as people waved and applauded from sidewalk restaurants.

On May 14, members of PSL called a rally in Sequim, Wash., in support of Planned Parenthood’s national day of action. The Bans Off Our Bodies rally drew nearly 30 people. The demonstrators and organizers set up on the corner of one of Sequim’s main intersections in order to capitalize on a bustling moment in a normally quiet town. The sign wavers drew attention from the attendees of both the local farmer’s market and the annual Irrigation Parade Festival. In the wake of the defeat of the WHPA in Congress, even tiny Sequim turned out to defend Roe.

Just over 200 people gathered at John Dam Plaza in Richland, Washington, to show their solidarity with the national struggle to protect reproductive rights. The rally was led by Planned Parenthood and the Tri-Cities Womxn’s March. Protesters lined either side of George Washington Way, waving signs and chanting. Inspired by the energy, several children took to helping make signs for those in attendance. Drivers passing by showed overwhelming support, honking along and joining in chants.

Over 30 people met in downtown Yakima, Wash., to protest the rollback of reproductive rights. Several doctors came as a group all wearing their white coats. Members of the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences Reproductive Health Club were in attendance showing their support. Protesters marched down Yakima Ave and took up chanting.

Indiana

A week after a large and militant emergency demonstration in downtown Indianapolis, over 1,000 people packed the Indiana Statehouse lawn on May 15 for a rally organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation of Indianapolis and Listen Up Indy! People from diverse backgrounds and of various ages came out to express their outrage at the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. They were also there to hear analysis, meet with other organizers, figure out how to become involved in next steps and build community more generally.

PSL organizer Sam James led the rally by contextualizing the protest, leading chants, and introducing the various speakers. Everland Wells of the PSL spoke about the unjust nature of the Supreme Court, while Indianapolis Liberation Center organizer Rachel Moore, a new mother, told the crowd that her positive relationship with motherhood is due almost entirely to her ability to choose to become a mother. Dr. Katie McHugh, a local abortion provider, also addressed the rally, reminding everyone that abortions are still legal in Indiana.

Ithaca, New York

In Ithaca, New York, 150 energetic activists gathered at 2 pm at Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons to protest the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. It was organized by Planned Parenthood of Greater New York as part of a national Bans Off Our Bodies campaign. For two hours, community activists, academics and local politicians stressed the importance of standing up for abortion access. It was frequently acknowledged that abortion bans disproportionately harm those marginalized by race and class. Speakers led chants like “Not the church. Not the State. People Must Decide Their Fate.” and “Abortion is life.” PSL Finger Lakes member Mona Sulzman decried the Democratic party’s inaction on abortion rights and called for a militant women’s movement: “In the streets in the cities, in the villages, wherever we can raise our diverse and passionate voices–all of us here today and the thousands more that we have to bring into this struggle—in a strategically organized way.”

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