More than 1,000 abortion-rights protesters marched in downtown Raleigh on Saturday as part of a national “day of action” in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
Demonstrators started gathering by the State Capitol shortly after 11 a.m. and marched past the legislative building on West Jones Street and the N.C. Supreme Court a couple of times before returning to the grounds of the Capitol for speeches by activists and protesters.
The protest was one of dozens of “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstrations that took place in cities throughout the country Saturday. They included one in Washington, D.C., where thousands of people marched to the U.S. Supreme Court to protest a draft ruling published by Politico, which reported a majority of the court’s justices voted to overturn the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion.
In Raleigh, protesters carried signs that read “Keep your laws off my body,” “I am not an incubator,” and “Forced birth is a crime against humanity,” as they made their way through downtown streets that police closed to traffic. The crowd, which stretched multiple blocks, broke out into different chants including “abortion is a human right” and “this is what democracy looks like.”
Emma Ratzlaff, an organizer of Saturday’s march, said she got involved in abortion rights activism after the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the high court in 2018.
“I protested because I knew that he was going to try and overturn Roe v. Wade; that’s why I cared so much, and now it’s actually coming to fruition,” Ratzlaff said.
A small group of counter-protesters, most of them from local chapters of Students for Life, a national anti-abortion group of high school and college students, also showed up Saturday. They maintained a constant presence with their own signs, usually from across the street where the large crowd of abortion supporters had gathered. One banner held up by the students read “We are the post-Roe generation.”
After the march, a group of activists and demonstrators spoke over a microphone to the pro-abortion rights crowd, which wrapped around the south side of the Capitol.
One speaker, a 22-year-old woman named Taylor, said she had been going to marches since she was 14 and had never seen “such real, visceral energy” at a protest before.
Others said that despite efforts in several states to restrict and ban abortion, the procedure “is just never going to stop happening,” and criticized people who oppose abortion for saying they favor life.
“Pro-life is no longer a valid argument because if you were pro-life you’d be pro-women,” one of the speakers said.
The group of counter-protesters stood across the street and chanted their own slogans into a bullhorn. At one point, a speaker talking to the abortion rights crowd said to loud cheers, “we’re outnumbering all of you.”
Brooke Larkin, a regional coordinator for Students for Life, said the group was excited by the news that the Supreme Court is poised to dismantle Roe, which she said meant that “states are going to have a choice on the abortion matter.
Larkin also said she believes that opinions about abortion vary, even among young people.
“Pro-choice people aren’t necessarily pro-abortion,” she said. “They just look at the pro-choice side as more compassionate.”
The march was at least the second major protest organized in Raleigh since the Supreme Court draft was leaked. Earlier this month, a few hundred people marched through downtown before gathering for a rally in Moore Square.