Abortion rights supporters, opponents rally outside Supreme Court amid historic arguments

As Supreme Court justices sat Wednesday to hear arguments in one of the most important abortion rights cases in generations, hundreds of people, both in support of and opposed to abortion access, packed into the sidewalk for competing rallies.

Dozens of advocacy groups maintained a presence outside the court through the morning, holding rallies on opposite sides of the sidewalk as justices heard oral arguments over a Mississippi abortion ban whose outcome could redefine nearly 50 years of abortion rights litigation following Roe v. Wade.

Advocates filtered into the area before dawn Wednesday, past snowplows and trucks blocking First Street to vehicle traffic in anticipation of a large crowd. U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court police set up barricades to split the roadway into two halves in an attempt to keep the two sides separate.

But despite attempts at crowd management, many began to intermingle: When arguments started, the Supreme Court’s sidewalk played host to rows of opposing activists trying to drown out or obstruct those behind them.

For much of the morning, a row of abortion rights activists holding signs, handed out in bulk by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, formed a wall in front of a Christian group with banners equating abortion with murder.

“Keep abortion legal,” chanted young abortion rights activists wearing “bans of our bodies” beanies. “Abortion is violence,” replied anti-abortion demonstrators, many of whom had bussed into the nation’s capital via a wide range of organizations, including the March for Life and Virginia’s Liberty University.

While the melding of two groups opposed to each other led to spirited and often heated arguments, they never became physical. Around noon, several abortion rights activists broke off from their rally and staged a sit-in at First Street and Constitution Avenue.

About two dozen risked arrest for their cause by remaining, despite Capitol police orders to disperse. They chanted “rosaries off my ovaries” and “not the church, not the state, people should decide their fate” as police removed them from the street to be booked and cited nearby.

Wednesday marked the latest in a series of demonstrations by both supporters and opponents of abortion rights after controversial legislation enacted by Texas and Mississippi.

Dozens of abortion rights activists took their concerns directly to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Chevy Chase, Maryland, home in September. The Women’s March returned to the streets of D.C. the following month in a “Rally for Abortion Justice,” facing off with counterprotesters opposed to abortion with Students for Life.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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