Image credit: Jo Freeman
Pro-choice protestors gathered in different cities all over the country on January 22, 2023. This was exactly 50 years after the Supreme Court declared in Roe v. Wade that state laws that denied a woman the right to choose an abortion were a violation of her Constitutional right to privacy.
They convened to protest a different decision by a different Court. After President Trump appointed three conservative Justices to the Court, it specifically overruled Roe on June 24, 2022.
Dobbs v.Jackson Women’s Health Organization shifted the battle over abortion to the states. With that in mind, WomensMarch told its supporters to march on their state capitols, with a national mobilization in Madison, Wisconsin. WomensMarch called this day “Bigger than Roe” but never explained exactly what that meant.
The District of Columbia doesn’t have a state capitol; it isn’t a state. Instead, roughly two thousand people gathered in Freedom Plaza at noon. The Plaza is across the street from the Wilson Building, where the City Council meets. That’s as close as you can get to a state capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Pro-choicers were greeted by a tiny group of Christian fundamentalists telling them they were all going to hell. They came from west Philadelphia to preach in D.C. Their message was so misogynist that it almost seemed like a parody. It wasn’t.
All of the marshals directing the crowd with bullhorns were Black women wearing jackets that said Harriet’s Wildest Dreams.
Describing itself as a Black-led Abolitionist Defense Hub, HWD is based in Maryland. Harriet refers to Harriet Tubman, a 19th Century abolitionist who escaped enslavement in Maryland. She returned many times to lead slaves to freedom via the underground railroad for a decade before the Civil War.
The marchers were overwhelmingly young, white women. There was a scattering of men, Black and white, and a few more Black women who weren’t marshals.
There were fewer babies and old folk. Weather predictions of cold, wind, and rain probably kept many away. Fortunately for the marchers, the rain was just a sprinkle.
Most signs were homemade.
The few pre-printed signs looked like they came from prior demonstrations.
At 12:30 the marshals led marchers out of Freedom Plaza to 15th St. to walk the four blocks to the White House.
They regrouped on Pennsylvania Plaza.
There were no scheduled speakers. The organizers asked if anyone wanted to address the crowd. One woman and one small girl took the bullhorn and said a few words.
After fifteen minutes, the lead banner was folded up as many participants went to the fence to take photos with the White House in the background. Most went home.
That was a popular spot many years ago. However, so many people, both protestors and pranksters, went over the fence that Secret Service blocked off the sidewalk with barricades. The barricades remained while the 6-foot 6-inch fence was replaced by one that is almost 13 feet tall.
There are still plenty of barricades on Pennsylvania Plaza, but after almost four years, the sidewalk is once again the prime spot for photo ops.
When the bullhorns blared that the march would continue, those remaining lined up and walked around Lafayette Square. They passed the White House again on H St. but did not stop.
Instead, a few hundred walked back to Freedom Plaza and from there to the Supreme Court. This time everyone stayed on the sidewalk.
Exhausted, I didn’t go on this final leg. Instead, I took a few more shots of the fire-and-brimstone families who said all feminists were going to Hell.
Jo Freeman is a feminist scholar and author.
Jo has finished her book Tell It Like It Is: Living History in the Southern Civil Rights Movement, 1965-66, and is looking for a publisher.
Copyright ©2023 Jo Freeman.