Pro-choice protesters at the US Supreme Court tell Rachel Sharp that they feel the Supreme Court justices lied to the American people and they now fear abortion rights are just the first domino to fall
Eva feels American women have been betrayed.
“How can you ban abortion when we don’t even have universal healthcare and you don’t offer paid maternity leave?” she told The Independent.
“There’s not even diapers. There’s not even formula for children. Childcare is so expensive.
“It doesn’t make sense that you ban it but you don’t give women the resources to keep and bring up a baby.”
“I honestly just can’t understand why a court that is primarily men would want to say what goes on in a woman’s body. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.
As Eva pointed out, many women of reproductive age across the country are at crisis point right now.
When a woman becomes pregnant, they are at a greater risk of dying than if they lived elsewhere with research from the Commonwealth Fund showing that the US has the highest maternal mortality rate of all high-income nations.
Once they have a baby, there is no guaranteed paid parental leave on a national level, with federal law giving mothers – not including fathers or non-birthing parents – just six weeks of unpaid time off.
The cost of bringing up their child is then extreme with the average cost of childcare for one child at a childcare or daycare centre soaring to $226 a week, according to Care.com.
Meanwhile, in recent months, mothers have been faced with an unprecedented baby formula shortage which left many resorting to desperate measures to get food into the mouths of their infants.
And now, 36 million women of reproductive age no longer have the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Following Friday’s historic ruling where the conservative-heavy court took away the constitutional right to an abortion, hundreds of people travelled to the US Supreme Court in Washington DC to peacefully protest the decision.
Women of all generations – and all with their own stories and reasons for being there – spoke to The Independent about their fears that a women’s right to choose has been stripped away.
Elderly women who remembered Roe’s passing in 1973 returned to the fight that they had hoped was already won.
Middle-aged women protested side by side with their teenage daughters.
Even new mothers with tiny babies stood outside the court revealing their fears that their infant daughters will now grow up in a world where women have less rights than they did.
Representing women of colour
For Eva, a 26-year-old Black woman from Virginia, she came to the court with her friend to support communities of colour.
“We are here to represent the people of colour and Black women who have lost access to healthcare and access to abortion,” she said.
“We live in a blue state but we’re here to protest for other people of colour who don’t have that choice anymore.”
She said that she is “greatly” concerned and upset that the women expected to be hardest hit by abortion bans and restrictions across the country are women of colour.
“That concerns me greatly,” she said.
“People who seek abortions are often people in marginalised communities who don’t have the finances to bring up a baby and a lot of these women are Black women.
“And that upsets me that they don’t have that choice any more.”
Mischa, a 21-year-old from Maryland, said that many women will die if they are forced to carry pregnancies.
“So many women are going to pass away from not being able to have abortions,” she told The Independent.
“I am here as I want to be on the right side of history. I can’t just sit at home as that would eat away at me forever.”
‘They lied, they backstabbed’
She hit out at the Supreme Court justices who she said “lied and backstabbed” the American people.
During their confirmation hearings to the court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh both swore under oath that they believed Roe was settled legal precedent.
“They lied, they backstabbed, they knew it in their heads,” she said.
“When they had [their confirmation hearings] they were asked about this case in particular and they said it is law, they won’t change it and guess what? They did.”
Kaitlin, 33, and her husband Tom, 36, described the court’s overturning of women’s reproductive rights as “a failure of the system” stoked by the “fear” spread by the Trump administration.
“The prior administration inspired a fear within people and I think that pushed a lot of the changes that we’ve seen in the last few years,” said Kaitlin.
“This was a failure of the Supreme Court system with no checks and balances in place – it shouldn’t have happened.”
The couple had travelled two and a half hours to be there to show the government that they disagree with the “fascism” on display.
“A lot of people have had their rights taken away. Most people think it’s just women but it’s also transgender people, gender fluid people, anyone with a uterus is affected by this,” said Kaitlin.
“I don’t think this was a choice that the people truly made. I think it was a failure of the system.”
She added: “It looks like fascism – and I’m not a fan.”
Tom, a white male, spoke of his concerns that the country is headed back to a time when only people who look like him had rights.
“We’re supposed to be moving forwards, not backwards,” he said.
“This is a sign that we’re going to regress back and if they’re allowed to start here… It’s going to snowball and then we’re going back to the 1960s era where they repressed everybody but the white man.”
Democrats ‘failed their people’
The Supreme Court isn’t the only place where anger and disappointment among pro-choice demonstrators was directed.
In the 49 years since Roe passed, lawmakers have failed to protect abortion access by codifying it into law.
While she is a registered Democrat, Kaitlin said she feels “let down” by the Democratic party.
“The Democratic party has done nothing but failed its people,” she said.
“And I think that also calls for a revisiting of bipartisanship. Republicans versus Democrats is not serving the country well anymore.”
Jacob Wilson, a 36-year-old originally from Missouri now living in Washington DC, said that the issue isn’t “red or blue” but is about politicians failing to serve the people who elected them.
“Republicans didn’t do it either,” he said of codifying abortion rights.
“This isn’t about Republican or Democrat or red or blue. This is about the failure of elected leaders over five decades to codify it.”
For years, pro-choice lawmakers have been “too scared to put their names on legislation” and that has culminated in the events of Friday, he said.
“You’d think in the world’s oldest democracy we’d do a better job of caring about aspects of representative government but that’s not where we are and that needs to change,” he said.
‘The first domino to fall’
Jacob told The Independent that, as well as coming to protest in support of people who have lost their right to abortion access, he is also there as a gay married man who is afraid that this is only “the first domino to fall” as rights are pushed backwards across the country.
“I’m here with my husband and two of our good friends and all four of us gay men married in the last couple of years,” he said.
“Today is obviously about Roe and access to abortion but we know this is also the first domino to fall by this court that was packed by a man who lost the popular vote by nearly three million.”
Several other demonstrators outside the Supreme Court also told The Independent that they weren’t only there to protest the loss of abortion rights but to protest what they fear will be a wave of other rights now also under threat.
In his opinion concurring with the majority ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that he wanted to “reconsider” other rights codified under the 14th Amendment pointing to rulings that gave Americans the right to contraception, to same-sex sex and same-sex marriage.
Gwennie, a middle-aged lady from Maryland, said she was there protesting for the rights of her daughter who is married to another woman.
“This is why I’m here,” she told The Independent, pointing to her sign that read “Keep your bans off my daughters”.
“My daughter is married to her wife and I can see that’s where the Supreme Court wants to go.
“They want to take this further. They want to take rights further away for contraceptives and for same-sex marriages.
“This is my fear too that this will happen to her… that even more rights are taken. That my children, my three children will have less rights than I had.”
For 18-year-old Sophie, she is now the third generation of women in her family who have taken to the streets of America to protest for abortion rights.
She stood outside the fenced-off Supreme Court with her mother 48-year-old Tammy – mother and daughter team holding aloft signs.
Tammy told The Independent that her own mother had worked for Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin when she was younger and had been part of protests for women’s rights before Roe passed in 1973.
“She then marched with me as a young woman and then I marched alone when I was older,” she said.
“Then my daughter was born and I brought her with me and now here she is.
“It just feels like we’re going round and round and some things feel like there’s a little bit of progress – and then there’s regression.”
Tammy said she never thought that she would be passing the need to protest for women’s rights down to her daughter.
She said: “It’s disappointing that we’re still here when it’s been so many years.”