A draft opinion leaked Monday of a U.S. Supreme Court case on abortion rights has sparked protests nationwide. The draft indicated the high court would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which gave people the right to legal abortion nationwide.
In Oregon and Southwest Washington on Tuesday, hundreds of people gathered in Portland, Vancouver, Bend and Eugene to protest the potential ruling.
In front of a crowd of hundreds of people at the federal courthouse in downtown Portland Tuesday evening, Emma Giometti shared her story of leaving a domestic abuse situation in California when she was just 18.
The now-19-year-old Lewis and Clark College student got teary eyed while sharing her story. She says access to abortion was crucial to her getting where she is in life.
“I want to thank the San Rafael Planned Parenthood for saving my life,” she said.
Giometti was just one of several speakers at the rally Tuesday evening, in response to the leaked draft opinion.
The event was organized by the Portland Democratic Socialists of America. Organizers said they planned the local rally after a nationwide call to action. Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson also addressed the crowd saying, “I am out here today with my daughter because I am furious about what is happening in this country and what the Supreme Court is about to do.”
Vega Pederson acknowledged that in Oregon, the right to have an abortion is protected, even if the Supreme Court does follow through with the ruling.
“But we know that our neighbors in Idaho have a very different situation and we know that when the Supreme Court final decision comes out, we’re going to have people who are looking at Oregon as a place where they can come to access their right to have an abortion to get their reproductive health care.” She called for participants at the rally to donate to organizations in Oregon that help provide access to abortion. She also called for them to vote.
“We have to elect people into Congress who are going to fight the filibuster so that we are not held hostage to a minority that is trying to get they’re reactionary agenda of controlling our bodies,” she said. Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, a Portland based gynecologist and author, spoke to the crowd about the specific groups of people who would be most impacted by Roe v. Wade being overturned.
“Those who have been historically marginalized based on their race, based on their gender expression based on their age — I’m talking about teenagers — and based on their language, their citizen status. Those people are those who will be the most affected, including those who are not able-bodied,” Lincoln said. She said the idea that abortion is a form of health care should be normalized, so it’s seen as a right. “When you tell half the population that all of a sudden they have no control over their body, you have made them second-class citizens, and you’re taking away their right to choose and their right to live the full life.”
Just a few miles away, a second rally was held at Portland State University’s Urban Plaza.
The local chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation put on the event shortly after the downtown rally ended. Organizer Mariah Denman said the group wanted to offer an alternative location that was convenient for students, and separate from traumatic experiences during the 2020 protests at the courthouse.
“All people who can bear children have the right to an abortion that is free, safe, legal and on demand,” Denman said. “And so we decided to get out into the streets. We knew that people were going to be angry, people were going to be fired up.”
The group’s goal was to offer an opportunity for students and community members to talk about taking action against the potential ruling.
“What we really want is for legal abortion to be enshrined into law everywhere as a federal law,” Denman said. “We want it to be a constitutional right.”
As the rally at PSU continued, a group of marchers arrived, chanting, “No more speeches, get on the street.”
Denman said that march was unrelated to the rally, though participants held signs supporting access to abortion and condemning the Supreme Court’s anticipated action.
The march continued through downtown, arriving at the federal courthouse. Portland police said some in the group broke windows and spray-painted buildings nearby. One person was arrested.
About 200 people, the majority of them women, rallied in front of the Deschutes County Courthouse in Bend Tuesday afternoon.
Some had small children in tow. Others, like Holly White, had a sense of déjà vu.
”This is a fight that’s been going on way too long,” White said, wearing a threadbare T-shirt she first wore to abortion rights rallies in 1992.
”Here we are again,” she said. “Now, it feels even scarier.”
Thirty-five year old Rachel Brodeur stepped behind a megaphone to describe how federal services already prevent access to abortion for many Native Americans.
“While we have this momentum, while we are talking about it, can you please, please bring us with you?” Brodeur said to the mostly white crowd.
A member of the Tlingit Tribe, Brodeur said she drives an hour and a half from Bend to the Warm Springs Reservation to receive health care through the Indian Health Service.
The agency is responsible for providing health care to Native Americans. It doesn’t offer abortions, due to a longstanding prohibition on federal funding for the procedure.
”The same people who are worried about losing access to something, have no idea that it’s something that I’ve never had access to,” she said.
The speeches in Bend were marshaled by Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Democratic candidate for the hotly contested 5th Congressional District.
”We need to codify our rights to have access to abortion into federal law,” McLeod-Skinner said.
More than 50 people gathered at the Clark County Courthouse by 5 p.m. Tuesday, hoping to signal a firm condemnation of the Supreme Court decision.
Elsie Elling, Washington field manager for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said a potential Roe v. Wade reversal has lately seemed more possible, but that was no balm for when Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion was leaked Monday night.
”We’d been planning for some sort of overturn or stripping away of rights,” Elling said. “It was a mixture of shock and knowing in your heart it was going to come around.”
Rally-goers also felt concerned that other, more recent policy strides could be vulnerable. They feared for the future of same-sex marriage and access to contraception.
Kelsey Richter, a Vancouver resident, said the future for her daughter and other women in her life compelled her to attend.
”Just the idea that we will not have access to health care and choice over our own bodies is very disturbing to me,” Richter said. “It seems like it’s unraveling. It feels like a definite possibility of a snowball effect. What’s next?”
Although Washington’s progressive statehouse seems to insulate the state for now from consequences of overturning Roe, Elling said she hoped more people would be galvanized to vote in upcoming elections.
”We have a pro-reproductive majority but … a lot of those seats are up this year,” Elling said. “We know a lot less folks show up and vote in the midterms, including young folks who are more likely to align on these issues. I mean, that’s my next six months: making sure folks turn out for the midterms.”
The development underscored the need for new policy ideas, Elling said. She said she will support legislation encouraging more people to pursue careers in medicine and paying into programs like the Northwest Abortion Access Fund.
Several hundred people also rallied at the Eugene Federal Building on Tuesday afternoon. KLCC reports the event was quickly organized, as a chance for people to let their legislators know how important this issue is to them.
“If we don’t stand up for where it counts while we’re still free, maybe we won’t get the chance to,” University of Oregon student Sofia Ocker told KLCC reporter Rachael McDonald.
After the rally, the crowd marched through the streets of downtown Eugene.