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Boston protesters blast strict abortion laws passed by several states

Abortion-rights supporters rally outside the Massachusetts State House
As part of a national wave of protests abortion-rights supporters rally outside the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday. (Shelby Lum/Globe Staff)

Hundreds of abortion-rights supporters rallied outside the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday to protest stringent abortion legislation passed in several states.

The noon rally was part of a national wave of protests, called the ‘‘National Day of Action to Stop the Bans,’’ against laws enacted or nearing passage in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, Georgia, and elsewhere.

Several Boston protesters recalled their own experiences as they voiced worries that the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion could be in jeopardy with a conservative-leaning court.

Margaret Emerson, 70, said it was necessary for her to have an abortion when she was in her 20s.

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“I was just too young, I wasn’t ready to have a child, and the fella I was with wasn’t ready, either,” said Emerson, of Martha’s Vineyard. “My big fear is that [a ban] will be national.’’

Katie Breen, a graduate student at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the idea of Roe v. Wade being overturned terrified her.

“I feel like I took it for granted that abortion was accessible for me growing up,” the 29-year-old said.

She said that as public health student, she believes banning abortions would be dangerous for society.

“Virtually any professor in public health will tell you abortion is an integral part of health care,” Breen said. “To not have it goes against the tenets of health care.”

Jane Marcus of Medford chanted during a rally outside of the State House.
Jane Marcus of Medford chanted during a rally outside of the State House.(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

The protests were in response to a near-total ban on abortion recently signed into law in Alabama, and bills enacted or nearing passage in Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, and Louisiana that aim to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can happen in the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. Missouri lawmakers passed a ban on abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy.

Rally organizers — including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the American Civil Liberties Union — predicted tens of thousands of people would attend hundreds of events scheduled in all 50 states.

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In Washington, a demonstration outside the Supreme Court drew hundreds of protesters and several Democratic presidential candidates, including Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

‘‘I cannot tell you how important this moment in our country’s history is,’’ Gillibrand said. ‘‘Do not allow this moment to lapse without putting everything you can behind it. Organize, advocate, and vote.’’

In Atlanta, several hundred protesters jammed onto the steps of the Georgia State House, chanting ‘‘Vote them out!’’

In St. Louis, several hundred protesters gathered in a park between the Gateway Arch and the historic courthouse where the Dred Scott case decision that deemed black slaves as property, not citizens, was heard.

Katie Lorentz, a 19-year-old college student, said she worries that if she ever needs an abortion she'll be criminalized.

‘‘It puts a lot of women in danger,’’ Lorentz said of the new law during the St. Louis rally. ‘‘States with strong antiabortion laws have higher women mortality rates and infant mortality rates.”

Protesters in Boston said they could not remain silent amid the recent legislative action.

They carried signs with such messages as “We Will Not Go Back” and “Keep Your Laws Off My Body.” At least two women donned the red robes and white bonnets made famous by Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which portrays the subjugation of women.

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Worth Baker, a 29-year-old software engineer from Cambridge, said he, too, vehemently opposed any bans.

“It’s a woman’s right to choose,” Baker said. “As a guy, it’s important to reframe this not just as a women’s issue, but a human issue.”

A woman held a hanger reading “no more” during a rally outside of the State House.
A woman held a hanger reading “no more” during a rally outside of the State House.(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report. Annika Hom can be reached at annika.hom@ globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.