Thousands of people have marched on the US Supreme Court in Washington as part of nationwide protests demanding continued access to abortion, as conservative politicians and judges put it in jeopardy.
Demonstrators filled the streets surrounding the court, shouting “My body, my choice” and armed with placards reading “Mind your own uterus” and “I love someone who had an abortion”.
Some wore T-shirts reading simply “1973″ – a reference to the landmark Roe v Wade decision which made abortion legal for generations of American women.
Elaine Baijal, a 19-year-old student at American University, said her mother had joined a march for legal abortion with her own mother in the 1970s.
“It’s sad that we still have to fight for our right 40 years later,” Ms Baijal said.
The Washington march was among hundreds of abortion rights protests held across America on Saturday.
They took place two days before the start of a new term for the Supreme Court that will decide the future of abortion rights in the United States, after appointments of justices by former president Donald Trump strengthened conservative control of the high court.
The day before the march, the Biden administration urged a federal judge to block the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions in Texas since early September.
It is one of a series of cases that will give the nation’s divided high court occasion to uphold or overrule Roe v Wade.
The Texas law motivated many of the demonstrators and speakers.
“We’re going to keep giving it to Texas,” Marsha Jones of the Afiya Centre for Black women’s health care in Dallas pledged to the Washington crowd.
“You can no longer tell us what to do with our bodies.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood nationally, told of women forced to drive many hours across state lines – sometimes multiple state lines – to end pregnancies in the weeks since the Texas law came into effect.
She told the crowd packed into Freedom Square and surrounding streets: “The moment is dark… but that is why we are here. No matter where you are, this fight is at your doorstep right now.”
In Springfield, Illinois, several hundred people rallied on the Old State Capitol square.
Prominent among them were the Illinois Handmaids, wearing red robes and white bonnets reminiscent of the subjugated women of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale and carrying signs that said: “Mind Your Own Uterus,” and “Mother By Choice”.
On the west coast, thousands marched through Los Angeles to a rally in front of City Hall. Protesters chanted “Abortion on demand and without apology: only revolution can make women free”.
Among them was Kayla Selsi, who said: “Women’s rights are being taken away, and it’s highly affecting women of lower class.
“I feel safer in California as a woman, but Texas is obviously going in one direction and it scares me that other states could go the same way.”
In New York, governor Kathy Hochul spoke at rallies in Seneca Falls and then Albany. “I’m sick and tired of having to fight over abortion rights,” she said.
“It’s settled law in the nation and you are not taking that right away from us, not now, not ever.”
Addressing demonstrators at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Democrat Melody Hernandez said abortion foes emboldened by the recent developments in Texas and at the Supreme Court would not prevail.
“An overwhelming majority of Arizonans, of Americans, support everything we are standing here for today,” she said.
“Don’t let anyone fool you – we are the majority. We are made… of people from all walks of life, ethnicity, party, nationality.”
An opponent of women’s access to abortion called the march theme “macabre”.
Jeanne Mancini, president of anti-abortion group March for Life, tweeted: “What about equal rights for unborn women?”