Thousands of demonstrators converged on Boston Common and filled downtown streets for a march to Copley Square late Friday afternoon to protest the US Supreme Court ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
Two groups coalesced separately near the State House and the Park Street MBTA station before combining for a circuitous march through downtown to the Boston Public Library, where more protesters waited, chanting slogans such as, “My body, my choice!” and “Separate church and state!”
“This decision is illegitimate, and it must not stand,” Kathy Lawrence, a rally organizer, told the crowd near the T station as the protest began. Throngs cheered in approval.
Lawrence said the government should codify safe access to abortion, leading to more cheers.
Another speaker, Emilia Morgan, proclaimed, “Today has been an awful day,” as her voice cracked with emotion. Morgan lambasted Democrats, saying the political fight to preserve the right to choose has been abysmal.
She took specific aim at President Biden.
“What has he done for us?” She asked.
“Nothing!” yelled someone from the crowd.
Some speakers warned that the ruling might portend an erosion of rights for other groups, such as immigrants and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.
Demonstrators raised banners with messages including “Overturn Roe? Hell no!!” and “Abortion on Demand & Without Apology!” Other signs read “Forced motherhood = female enslavement,” and “[Expletive] the court.”
David Hogg, 22, a Harvard University student who survived the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and cofounded March for Our Lives, said the ruling constitutes a “horrific infringement” on people’s rights.
The court, he said, now represents special interests, not the public interest.
“It’s ridiculous that nine unelected people get to control what happens to the health care of 90 million people,” he said.
Hogg said it is vital for those on the left to organize for change.
“Liberals are organized in the way that kindergarteners are with their friends, and conservatives have been organizing for the past 50 years like SEAL Team Six,” he said. “You can’t even compare the two. The left is going to need to be more organized and driven and persistent than ever before.”
Jillian Guerra, a 28-year-old Braintree resident, said that even though the right to choose is secure in Massachusetts, it is important to show solidarity with others across the country who don’t share those protections.
“Women are going to die from this ruling,” Guerra said. “It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Embry Galen, 29, who uses they/them pronouns, said their mother forced them to have an abortion at 17, though Galen had wanted to carry the pregnancy to term. The experience reinforced Galen’s view that pregnant people should be able to choose for themselves, they said.
“Just because I didn’t want to have an abortion doesn’t mean that no one else should have the right,” they said.
On the Common, Gent Haviari, a 19-year-old rising sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, handed out fliers for Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, a group he had been involved with for “maybe half an hour,” after seeking a way to help after the court released its decision.
Haviari said it’s important that men support abortion rights.
“Ultimately, it’s a patriarchy, and you need men to also really come out and fight for this if you want change to happen,” he said. “I would like for it to be different, but that’s the world we live in today.”
By 5:30 p.m., the crowd was on the move, stopping rush-hour traffic on Tremont Street in the heart of downtown and marching through the Theater District, sometimes chanting anti-Republican slogans.
At Charles and Boylston streets, the crowd staged a “die-in” on the pavement.
About 6 p.m., the marchers met up with thousands more demonstrators in Copley Square, filling the plaza in front of the Boston Public Library, toting signs reading “Bans off our bodies,” and “Only the struggle has won women’s rights.”
Organizers called out, “They say go back!”
The crowd responded, “We say fight back!”
Sage Sears, 21, said outside the library that she had cried inside her office earlier, after receiving a notification about the verdict on her cellphone.
“I think it’s unfair that the government tries to control women’s bodies, and our bodies are more regulated than guns,” she said, referring to another Supreme Court decision this week that overturned a New York State gun control law.
Sears said she counts herself lucky to live in a state where abortion rights are not threatened by the ruling, but she turned out to fight for “everyone with a uterus who can’t protest.”
Organizer Parul Koul encouraged protesters to mobilize and force the Supreme Court to overturn its opinion.
“We’re not just coming back for abortion rights, but for free health care — for a whole new society,” Koul said. “The only way we can send that message is by staying in the streets.”
By 6:45, demonstrators were again filling the streets as they headed back toward the State House, a few of them climbing onto traffic lights as the crowd cheered.
Wearing scrubs and a white lab coat, Brett Lewis, 31, strode down Boylston Street with several colleagues. Lewis, a resident physician at Boston Medical Center who hopes to one day provide abortion care, said she attended the march “as a woman, as a patient, and a provider.”
She said the ruling was no surprise but nonetheless caused “a visceral feeling in my body of disappointment, anger, and frustration.”
Correspondents Camille Caldera and Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.
Danny McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him @Danny__McDonald. Kate Selig was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @kate_selig. Alexander Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AlMThompson