Women’s March rallies in D.C. for reproductive rights ahead of midterms

Photo for The Washington Post by Craig Hudson
Thousands of demonstrators march to the Supreme Court during the “Bans Off Our Bodies” abortion rights rally in D.C. on May 14.

WASHINGTON – Thousands of people gathered in Washington and in cities across the country Saturday, filling streets, chanting and carrying protest signs to demand the right to abortion, one month before the critical midterm elections.

Under blue skies and with beautiful fall breezes, demonstrators gathered in Folger Park in D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, then marched to the U.S. Capitol grounds.

It was part of a “Women’s Wave” day of action organized by the Women’s March and other groups to emphasize to supporters that this year’s midterms are a crucial time to back candidates the movement sees as supporting abortion rights.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 49-year-old decision that guaranteed a person’s constitutional right to have an abortion in June.

“Now, everything feels very much like a fight for everything we love,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March. “It’s the first election since Roe has fallen in this new era of American democracy, and it’s really important that women turn out as a voting bloc.”

At Folger Park, pop music blared from a sound system as the crowd gathered near a stage, many hoisting signs – “Abort the court” and “Girls just wanna have fundamental rights.”

People wore shirts that said “My body my choice,” “Won’t go back,” and “Abortion justice voter.” Marchers brought dogs and wheeled along children in strollers.

Staci Lee, 45, had come from her home in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio, to be part of the demonstration.

“I’m here to say, ‘Stay out of my uterus,’ ” Lee said. She said what she called the erosion of the separation of church and state was a critical issue for her.

“I don’t know why they are now saying we are a Christian nation,” she said. “We are a melting-pot nation, and putting your religious views on everyone is just wrong.”

Elizabeth Rummage, 36, a college history major and mother of three boys, said she thinks the country is “absolutely going backward.” She traveled from North Carolina for Saturday’s march.

“This is absolutely not what I want for my family and friends,” she said. “I came here to show that there is power in groups.”

Organizers expected 2,000 people at this demonstration, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service, and by early Saturday afternoon, there were easily that many people.

Demonstrators carried other signs reading, “Ignore abortions like you ignore mass shootings,” and “We are the daughters of the witches you never burned.”

A small group of counter protesters arrived near the start of the rally in a corner of the park, raising a large sign reading “abortion = murder,” but their sign and chants were drowned out by abortion rights demonstrators.

Capitol Police spokesman Tim Barber said a woman was arrested after she was found trying to impede permitted demonstrators from reaching the area.

Comedian and actress Lea DeLaria addressed the rally in the park. “Women have a lot of rage right now,” she said. “We are going to make them listen to us. We have had it.” Nee Nee Taylor, who is a co-conductor for Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a local Black-led mutual aid and community defense organization, also spoke at the rally.

At 1:30 p.m., the march began traveling to Union Square, near the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Police on bicycles cleared the way and women with megaphones led the throng in call and response chants.

“When abortion rights are under attack, what do you do?”

“Stand up, fight back!”

“Two, four, six, eight, we won’t be forced to procreate!”

“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!”

As the crowd reached Union Square, near the Capitol’s west front, chants and shouts filled the cool fall air.

Despite the show of solidarity, Merritt and Peter Andruss, 74 and 75, who had traveled from Philadelphia, said they were nervous about the coming midterms.

“We’re here for our children and grandchildren,” Peter said.

“I’m still concerned about losing our democracy,” Merritt said.

The midterm elections are expected to determine the future of abortion access in states including Pennsylvania and Michigan, where Democratic governors have blocked antiabortion legislation proposed or passed by Republican-led legislatures.

The election results also will determine which party controls Congress and how much power deniers of the 2020 presidential election could secure in key battleground states ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.

Abortion rights advocates with Our Rights DC, a group that has been organizing protests outside the conservative justices’ homes for months, planned simultaneous protests Saturday evening at the homes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.