The shouts and cheers from a crowd of at least 1,000 peopled boomed outside Philadelphia City Hall Friday evening as protesters unified in fear and outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade.
Abortion-rights advocates gathered on JFK Boulevard and in the courtyard of the Municipal Services Building to hear speakers from the Working Families Party, Philly Democratic Socialists of America, and other social justice organizations behind the event.
The vibe — and signs — were fiery.Those who attended vocalized their rage toward the U.S. Supreme Court for what they see as an affront not just to reproductive rights, but to human rights more broadly.
“We’re not here to mourn, we’re not here to grieve, we’re here to fight like hell,” said one speaker, struggling to get the words out over a tide of cheers.
Organizers said Friday’s decision opens the door to discrimination against women, LGBTQI people, people with low income, and other marginalized groups. They encouraged everyone to march, vote, and donate to social justice causes.
Abigail Ariza, 29, said she’s now worried about attacks on other freedoms, such as same-sex marriages.
“Once you question and disregard someone’s right to their own autonomy, you start to bring up other issues,” she said.
The Roe reversal doesn’t trigger any immediate changes in Pennsylvania, where abortion is currently legal until 24 weeks after a patient’s last menstrual period. But many Philadelphians are still worried about how the decision could lead to future abortion bans and make it harder for people who need these services to get them.
“I’ve always been able to access reproductive health,” Ariza said. “It gave me a choice to do what I wanted to do and not just what fell upon me.”
At a Friday morning press conference, abortion providers and advocates said they expect Pennsylvania will need to serve patients from other states where abortion bans are taking effect, and that it’s already a challenge to meet the needs of state residents seeking care. They also expressed worry that there will be more threats of violence at abortion clinics and more confusion and fear among abortion seekers.
At the rally, protesters said they felt heartened being around others who felt equally frustrated and distressed.
“I appreciate the energy here,” said Amanda Klein, 38. “A protest alone doesn’t fix the situation … but it’s good to scream at the wind for a little bit with others who are just as angry.”
Some who marched said they were going to get more involved in political activism in the wake of the decision, particularly around getting people to vote for politicians who support abortion access.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has a history of vetoing Republican-led efforts to restrict abortion rights in a Republican-controlled legislature. Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastrano has vowed to ban abortion if he wins the election in November.
Maria Juliarossi said the news this morning made her want to cry, out of concern for her two young daughters.
“Them not being able to choose whatever they want to choose about their bodies and their lives, it’s very scary,” she said.
Many families came out to the rally, as did seniors and people across the gender spectrum.
Brice Armond Patterson, a Philadelphia illustrator and activist, called abortion restrictions “draconian.”
“We want to force people to give birth, but what world are these people being born into?” they said. “A world where income inequality is worse than it’s ever been, a world where people don’t have access to health care, where if you’re born in the wrong area of the city and you don’t have access to education and the support you need you wind up being criminalized.”
There did not appear to be a significant counter-protest at the event.