Thousands of people turned out at the Massachusetts State House Tuesday evening to defend abortion rights and protest against a leaked draft opinion of the US Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.
The protests in Boston came less than a day after the draft opinion was published online by Politico Monday night. The release set off a wave of reaction from activists, politicians, and legal experts as many grappled with how the ruling would change the future of reproductive rights in the United States.
“We’re out here today demonstrating to oppose these attacks on women’s bodily autonomy and the antidemocratic nature of the Supreme Court,” said Gabby Ballard, an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which called for demonstrators to gather at the State House on Tuesday for an “emergency protest.”
“We have an unelected body of nine individuals who think that they have the right to revoke gains that were made by women, people, working-class people fighting in the streets, demonstrating, going to meetings, and today is really important that we continue that fight,” she added.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the leaked draft, which was signed by Justice Samuel Alito and was dated in February, but said the draft “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”
The leaked draft sent activists pouring into the streets Tuesday in Boston and other parts of the country.
The 6 p.m. gathering outside the State House grew from hundreds of demonstrators to thousands, spilling onto both sides of Beacon Street as the sun began to set. Some demonstrators carried signs. One read: “Only struggle has won women’s rights.” Another: “Defend Roe v. Wade.” A third: “Legalize abortion once and for all.”
Among those seated on the State House steps were several women holding coat hangers, which are used to symbolize illegal and dangerous abortions.
The crowd spilled onto both sides of Beacon Street. At one point the crowd chanted, “Come on, come on let’s join the fight, abortion is a human right.”
“Just seeing the number of people who are out today on such short notice is really inspiring and speaks to the history [of how] Roe was won in the first place,” Ballard said. “It wasn’t just dropped out of the sky, a gift from the Supreme Court justices. It was a result of years of struggle and movements.”
Ballard said the group is planning to hold another demonstration on Friday at 6 p.m. in Copley Square.
“I think we can expect a lot more demonstrations like this [and] we can expect to see a revitalization of the women’s movement, and all the other encompassing movements; a right to fair health care, quality housing, so on and so forth,” she said.
Several speakers railed against the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority. Speakers framed the land’s top court as consisting of “undemocratically appointed justices” and at least one speaker called for the court to be abolished. Another said the leaked draft opinion constituted a “war on women.”
Speakers lambasted Republican politicians but also went after Democrats, who were criticized for not doing enough to protect abortion rights through legislation.
“Democrats have used abortion as a campaign talking point for decades, and yet they haven’t done anything to actually codify Roe v. Wade, and they stood on the sidelines for years while right-wing Republicans have launched attack after attack for nearly 50 years,” Claire Grossi, an organizer with Socialist Alternative, told the crowd.
”I’m sick and tired of Republicans denying me and people everywhere the right to make decisions about our own bodies,” she later added. “And I’m also sick and tired of Democrats using my body and rights as a talking point to get into and stay in office.”
Grossi, of Jamaica Plain, said the group is calling for a “public meeting” at the Cambridge Public Library on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to “discuss strategy and next steps to move forward in this struggle and build a movement that can actually defend Roe v. Wade and the right to abortion.”
Rachel Domond, a Roxbury resident and an organizer with the Boston Liberation Center, hailed the person who leaked the draft opinion as a hero, before declaring “get your hands off my body” to cheers from the crowd.
When Teresa Eliot Roberts, a nurse at Planned Parenthood, was announced to speak, the crowd roared its approval.
“I want to be able to take care of you no matter who you are,” Eliot Roberts told the crowd.
The protest was one of at least four in Massachusetts on Tuesday. Rallies were also held in Quincy, Worcester, and Northampton.
Shortly after the draft opinion was published Monday night, abortion rights demonstrators began to gather in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., many holding homemade signs and lit tea candles.
Demonstrators continued to be a presence outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, stood with a group of protesters who held signs emblazoned with slogans such as, “Thou shalt not steal my civil rights, thou shalt not steal my repro rights,” and, “Abortion SAVES lives!” according to a video shared in a tweet from the senator’s account.
“I am angry because an extremist Supreme Court thinks they can impose their extremist views on all of the women of this country and they are wrong,” Warren’s tweet read. “I have seen the world where abortion is illegal. We’re not going back—not now, not ever.”
I am angry because an extremist Supreme Court thinks they can impose their extremist views on all of the women of this country and they are wrong.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) May 3, 2022
I have seen the world where abortion is illegal. We’re not going back—not now, not ever. pic.twitter.com/5lE8rCQz5U
In Boston on Tuesday, the crowd at the rally marched from the steps of the State House, around Boston Common, into the Theatre District, and then back to the State House. After another slate of speakers, the crowd dispersed shortly after 8 p.m.
Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.