Thousands gathered in front of the United States Supreme Court and in Jackson, Mississippi today to rally in support of abortion rights as the Center for Reproductive Rights delivered oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
With banners announcing “Abortion is Essential,” rally-goers in D.C. heard from clients in the case, abortion providers, independent clinics, members of Congress, advocates, and speakers sharing their personal abortion stories—all emphasizing the importance of abortion rights and access.
In the case, the Center is defending the right to abortion against a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy that was passed as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
The #AbortionIsEssential rally, which was emceed by Renee Bracey Sherman, Founder and Executive Director of We Testify, included an all-star lineup of speakers including Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Northup inspired the crowd with a rallying cry ahead of oral arguments: “We are here to win, and I pledge to you, that no matter the outcome of this court case, the Center for Reproductive Rights will use every legal lever to make sure that abortion access is protected for all, is available without discrimination, is available without regards to means and circumstance, and is available to communities across the country,” she said. “This is what we mean when we say abortion rights are fundamental human rights.”
Speakers Included Center Clients, Partners, Activists and Public Officials
Northup introduced a group of Center clients who gave remarks, including Shannon Brewer, clinic director of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi clinic named in this case—and others who have brought abortion cases up to the Supreme Court: Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health (Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson (2021) and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016)), and Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of Hope Medical Group for Women (June Medical Services v. Russo (2020)).
Other speakers included: Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of National Women’s Law Center; Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong; Erin Grant, Deputy Director of the Abortion Care Network; Kimberly Inez McGuire, Executive Director for URGE; Vangela Wade, President and CEO for Mississippi Center for Justice; and members of Congress including Representatives Diana Degette, Barbara Lee, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, Judy Chu, Cori Bush and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Schumer.
Brewer reminded the crowd of the strength of the movement for abortion rights, saying: “I’m realizing that even when you think you’re doing this by yourself, there are so many people out here, fighting with us and continuing to fight with us.”
Miller, who is awaiting the decision from the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, which challenges Texas’s ban on abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy, said, “I know firsthand what it means to take the fight for abortion to this Supreme Court. I also know that meaningful access to abortion care in the United States depends on independent abortion providers – like our friends in Jackson – especially when we are in states that are politically hostile to abortion.” She continued, “Yet we dig deep, because even in these trying times, we know that we stand in the light. We know that providing abortion is a moral good for our communities; we know our work is essential.”
“Our ability to get an abortion should not depend on who we are, where we live, or how much money we make,” said Pittman. “Access to abortion is essential—and it should be accessible for everyone.”
Several members of Congress spoke, including Rep. Barbara Lee of California: “Make no mistake: The right to abortion is not real if only some people can access it,” she told the crowd. “Our message is very clear: Our rights are not up for debate. No way. And our health care decisions should not be made by politics and justices.”
Congresswoman Jayapal, who recently shared her own abortion story at a congressional hearing related to Texas’s abortion ban said, “I am also the one in four American who had an abortion. For me deciding to terminate my pregnancy was a tough choice, but it was my choice.” She continued, “Do not criminalize me and millions of people like me. Do not criminalize the people that help us. Do not criminalize the clinics and doctors. Do not criminalize the choices we make about our own bodies and our futures.”
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sometime next year. View the full replay of the rally here.
Video Highlights from the #AbortionIsEssential Rally
Photographs by Joy Asico and Eric Kayne, AP Images for the Center for Reproductive Rights