In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s seismic reversal of the nationwide right to abortion, thousands of people descended on downtown Portland Friday night in protest.
Heeding calls from abortion rights groups, who called on the crowds to sustain their frustration for the foreseeable future, protesters stood in the early summer heat and clutched signs with messages like “Abort this court” and “Abortion is health care.”
Frustrations in the crowds were apparent. Many first gathered near Salmon Street Springs and filed along Naito Parkway to demonstrate to passing cars, while sharing aloud their disbelief and anger.
“It’s incredibly depressing and I can easily see us losing our democracy in the next four years,” said Sandra Cress, of Portland. “I’m so depressed that this white, male patriarchy is trying to dominate a majority of this country with policies that are harmful to people of color and to women.”
Hours earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a case settled nearly 50 years ago that allowed access to abortion nationwide. The move sets in motion bans on the procedure in 13 states in the next 30 days, with more states expected to follow. Access to abortion is still protected in Oregon, despite the ruling.
Abortion rights groups have said abortion access is a vital component of equality and independence for people who can get pregnant, and an important piece of health care legislation when taking a pregnancy to term could have damaging health effects.
The governors of Oregon, California and Washington have already pledged to make a coordinated effort to protect state-level abortion laws. Meanwhile, Idaho is among the states with so-called “trigger laws” where a ban is now imminent after the Roe reversal.
An Do, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, pleaded with the Friday night crowd to join a “multigenerational fight.”
“We need to show up every single day,” Do said. “It’s our duty, it’s our moral obligation to protect democracy — and our democracy is rooted in our bodily autonomy.”
For many in the crowd, the court’s reversal showed other landmark court precedents could be vulnerable. With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court — which voted 5-4 to overturn Roe — and lifetime appointments, protesters worried for court precedents that permit contraception access and same-sex marriages.
“Do you think they’re going to stop with abortion? No,” said Rachel Valdes, of Lake Oswego. “All those human rights that aren’t cis, white rights are on the chopping block.”
After the news broke, Valdes said she donated to Planned Parenthood to brace for what she anticipates will be an influx of people needing abortions. She started looking into getting citizenship in Mexico, as well, she said.
“I’m really concerned that our rights are being lost,” she said. “Shit’s going backwards.”
Protesters gathered in other Oregon cities as well Friday, including Eugene and Salem.
After several stops for speeches, demonstrators in Portland marched for several blocks, carrying signs and chanting. Parts of the protest moved onto the Hawthorne Bridge later Friday evening and blocked traffic. While some demonstrators also broke windows downtown, set off fireworks and spray painted graffiti, the crowd as a whole avoided engaging in property damage.
This story may be updated.