Protesters in New York City took to the streets today in a mass demonstration of defiance against the recent wave of attacks on abortion rights in the United States. Chanting “Not the courts, not the state/people must decide their fate,” and “My body, my choice!” the more than 20,000 demonstrators, many wearing green in solidarity with the international movement for abortion rights, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to downtown Manhattan.
The march was one of several taking place across the country today to protest the wave of attacks on abortion rights and the recently-leaked Supreme Court draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, which clearly indicates that the court is planning to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that prevented abortion bans in the United States.
This massive protest was part the #BansOffOurBodies nation-wide day of action called for by the Women’s March Foundation and Planned Parenthood. These nonprofits that are allied with the Democratic Party were forced into action due to the immense rage and desire to mobilize by people all over the country.
There were also two other protests called in New York City– one in Union Square and another in Foley Square. The protest at Foley Square brought together over 1,000 people and began with a speak out in which many spoke out against the police, the Republicans and the Democrats. They then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, blocking traffic in the opposite direction from the #BansOffOurBodies march. As a result, the whole Brooklyn bridge was shut down.
In the last two weeks, spontaneous actions organized by Left groups have sprung up all over the country. There have been actions on middle-school, high–school, and university campuses, at hospitals, and in front of courthouses.
Many of those sectors mobilized in the march on Saturday. Labor contingents also mobilized, including dozens of teachers marching with the UFT, as well as professors and adjuncts with the PSC and some nurses with NYSNA. They distributed signs that read “Abortion rights are workers’ rights,” and “pro- union, pro-choice!”
At both the beginning and the end of the protest, festive dance music played. For many in the audience it was jarring— abortion rights are about to be taken away, we are witnessing historic attacks on trans youth, and dance techno music was playing over the loudspeakers.
Yesterday’s protest and every protest should be days of rage and moments to organize with urgency.
Democratic Party politicians also gave lip service to the protests. In New York City, unbeknownst to many in the crowd, Mayor Eric Adams, Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrats marched in the massive protest, claiming to stand for abortion rights. In peak hypocricy, the mayor’s office tweeted, “Abortion is health care and health care is a human right”– yet millions of New Yorkers suffer under the weight of medical debt under the administrations of these Democrats.
A spirit of rage and struggle infused the feminist socialist contingent, which was made up of members of several left organizations, as well as new organizations founded in the wake of the leaked decision draft. Left Voice marched in this contingent with CUNY for Abortion Rights, Socialist Alternative, as well as members of Tempest and NYC For Abortion Rights. To the beat of drums, comrades chanted against the Supreme Court, the Repubicans, the Democrats, and the church, and for the need to protect abortion rights, Black lives, trans lives, and workers’ rights.
While marching alongside all those who fight to defend abortion rights, the participants in the contingent spoke out against both the Republicans and the Democrats. While many in the crowd held signs pointing to voting blue in the November midterms as the solution, this contingent called for labor and student action to fight these attacks, knowing that the Democrats are not the solution. They have had multiple opportunities to codify abortion rights into law, but they have not. We know that we must defend our rights in the streets, in our workplaces, and in our schools until we guarantee the right to free, safe, legal abortion on demand.
More Attacks to Come
The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the court is allowed to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion will immediately become illegal in 13 states across the South and the Midwest, and will be severely restricted in several more.
Such an event would be catastrophic for women and others in need of abortions, particularly the hundreds of thousands of people expected to be pregnant in those states at the time. But it will hit poor and working class people the hardest, particularly poor and working class people of color. Without the resources or time to find care in other states, many people will be forced to seek unsafe procedures or carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Meanwhile the difficulty of obtaining an abortion will almost certainly lead to a significant increase in unwanted births, making life that much more difficult for working class parents.
And it’s not just abortion access that’s on the line. As reported by Mark Joseph Stern, “Alito’s draft opinion explicitly criticizes Lawrence v. Texas (legalizing sodomy) and Obergefell v. Hodges (legalizing same-sex marriage).” This indicates the will of the court to carry forward the right-wing offensive against basic rights in the United States.
And while the right to an abortion is being taken away, the Right is on the offensive against trans rights and LGBTQ righs more broadly. From the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida to the banning of gender affirmng care in Alabama, there are attacks on trans youth all over the country. A powerful movement to stop the overturning of Roe v. Wade could be instrumental in stopping the wider attack against basic rights and serve as a base from which to defend them in the future.
It’s Game On, Not Game Over
The night the draft was leaked, people gathered in front of the SCOTUS building to protest against the decision. And since then, we have seen a wave of large and small mobilizations, with yesterday’s mass mobilizations bringing tens of thousands to the streets. The majority of people in the United States support the right to an abortion, and many want to stand up and defend it.
But if we want to defeat these attacks against abortion access, we will need more than a day of action. The non-profits, unions, and left-wing organizations who mobilized yesterday will need a national plan of action that includes more mass mobilizations, walkouts, sickouts, strikes, and direct action to defend Roe v. Wade. That means demanding that unions organize even more members to take the streets and take workplace actions for abortion rights. It means demanding that Planned Parenthood and other non-profits put their immense resources at the service of a massive battle in the streets for abortion rights like we saw in Argentina and Ireland. That is the only serious plan of action to defend the national right to an abortion. Despite what Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March organizers say, voting Democrat in November is a losing plan; voting Democrat hasn’t worked and it won’t work.
But defending Roe is not enough. We must build a movement to win national legislation to guarantee safe, free, legal abortion on demand.
We have examples of how to do this. Ireland and Argentina’s feminist movements won abortion rights in predominantly Catholic countries with the strength of a mass movement. Alito’s draft opinion isn’t game over– it’s game on. And yesterday’s mobilization showed that tens of thousands are willing to fight for our rights and stand up for our rights.