Thousands of people assembled outside the U.S. Supreme Court Friday to voice their views on the court’s decision to eliminate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
Thomas Anfang was among them. The 20-year-old resident of Winchester, Virginia, said he hadn’t always been a supporter of the abortion-rights movement. When he was younger, his family followed anti-abortion interpretations of Christianity.
“As I grew older, it became apparent, like the full extent to how wrong that belief system was, denying women the right to choose,” Anfang said.
Although he feels some personal responsibility for his past beliefs, he emphasized that this protest was more significant than those feelings.
“This current situation that our nation finds itself in isn’t tenable,” he said. “We have a third of the highest court in the land appointed by a person who tried to overthrow the government.”
He also stressed the impact this decision will have on the American public.
“I have one friend in particular, who is trans, and she is, quite frankly, terrified,” he said. “I have friends terrified of what this means for themselves, for their family.”
Another protester, Anna — who requested her last name not be used — has been advocating for abortion rights since she was twelve.
She attended the March for Women’s Lives protest in 2004 in Boston, and has been attending rallies since, she said.
As a social worker and a therapist, Anna predicts that the most harm will befall already at-risk populations. Republican-controlled states and rural communities will likely experience an outsize impact, she said.
“I just think of the young people in some of those areas, because they’re going to be the ones that are the most affected and won’t have access to this basic right,” she said.
Many other people gathered at the Supreme Court were there to celebrate the court’s ruling Friday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. According to the majority opinion in the case, abortion rights are not “deeply rooted in the Nation’s tradition and history.”
The new ruling overturned two seminal cases granting the constitutional right to an abortion, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
A concurring opinion authored by Clarence Thomas further threatens to challenge cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut and Obergefell v. Hodges — which allow access to contraception and legalize same-sex marriage, respectively — that also rely on the due process clause and the right to privacy.
“Substantive due process conflicts with that textual command and has harmed our country in many ways,” Thomas said. “Accordingly, we should eliminate it from our jurisprudence at the earliest opportunity.
Three justices — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — wrote in their dissenting opinion that the decision to destroy “a right women have held for 50 years” is inherently political.
“It is instead taking sides,” the justices wrote, “against women who wish to exercise the right, and for States (like Mississippi) that want to bar them from doing so.”
Protesters Anfang and Anna said the best way to take immediate action is to turn to the ballot box.
“The most important thing is voting and following what’s going on in your elections, especially as we come into the midterm elections,” Anna said, highlighting states where abortion access is soon to be limited.
“This happened, because for 40 years straight, you had people who never skipped their midterm or presidential election,” Anfang said about concerted anti-abortion voting movements.
However, the pro-abortion movement shouldn’t be reduced to encouragement to vote, he said — civil disobedience and other forms of protest should be used as well.
“Voting alone does not resolve what’s occurred today,” he said.
Warning: some of the following photos contain explicit language.
— By Ryan Xu
— Slideshow by Samhita Kumar
Online editors-in-chief Adam Akins & Samhita Kumar contributed to this story.