Photo credit: Jo Freeman
Thousands of people congregated outside the Supreme Court on June 24, shortly after the Court announced that it was overturning Roe v. Wade. That 1973 decision had held that states could not regulate women’s right to an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus.
People came and went throughout the day, with crowds reaching a peak of roughly ten thousand in the evening.
Many felt the urge to address the crowd. Most spoke with a bullhorn.
In the evening, someone brought a small podium, with speakers and a microphone.
The crowd was largely twenty-somethings. Two-thirds were women and 90 percent were white.
Some brought their children.
Most people brought their own signs, often made with cardboard and marking pins, or leftover from prior demonstrations.
Some put signs by the wall of the Capitol grounds when they departed.
Only the left-wing groups brought banners.
Caulk messages were scribbled on the street.
The Capitol grounds were barricaded. Only those with special passes could enter. The Capitol itself was closed to the public.
The Supreme Court grounds have been barricaded and guarded for many weeks.
Late in the day, NARAL passed out a box of printed signs.
A few pro-lifers walked around with their signs shouting “Abortion is Murder.” They were guarded by a large man, who intervened when pro-choicers got too close.
Many of the pro-choice groups told their adherents to meet at Union Station at 5:00 p.m. After a rally, they marched to the Supreme Court, to join the thousands already there.
Most protestors were gone by midnight. Several dozen returned early the next morning. People came and went all day.
By Saturday evening several hundred were chanting and protesting in front of the Court, without a bullhorn or microphone.
The police were told to expect continual demonstrations for at least a week.
Only the day before, The Supreme Court had released its decision which said that states cannot control guns. Protests were expected of that decision, but they merged into the abortion demonstrations.
These two decisions are Donald Trump’s legacy. He appointed three Supreme Court Justices, which is very unusual for a single-term President. These Justices were identified, groomed, and promoted by the conservative Federalist Society. If Hillary Clinton had been President, the 6-3 majority on the Court would have gone the other way. Although she won the popular vote in 2016, she lost in the electoral college due to a few thousand votes in a few counties in three states – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – which normally support the Democratic candidate for President (and did in 2020).
Overturning a major Court decision half a century after it was made is not unprecedented. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) after 55 years. Like Dobbs, there were plenty of warning signs that change was coming. There was also massive resistance when the Court finally said no more racial segregation. It was years, actually decades, before people began to take desegregation seriously as the law of the land.
We certainly need massive resistance this time. The question is what form it should take. Perhaps it’s time for another constitutional amendment. While we are at it, let’s repeal the 2nd Amendment, which is making it difficult to impossible to protect people from gun violence.
Jo Freeman is a feminist scholar and author.
Copyright © 2022 Jo Freeman