Protesters mark 50th anniversary of Roe after repeal

Demonstrators gathered in Boston and cities across the country Sunday to mark what would have been 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared access to abortion care a constitutionally protected right.

Instead, marchers chanted and protested in response to the high court’s late June decision to strike down its own rulings in Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey and remove federal protections for first term abortions.

“Women’s rights are under attack!” a woman with a bullhorn shouted along with hundreds of others, many carry signs reading “my body, my choice” as they marched along Tremont to Beacon Street and toward the Massachusetts State House.

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, the House Democratic Whip, called the 1973 decision legalizing some abortions at the federal level a step toward “liberty and justice for all” that had been settled law for more than five decades.

“By repealing Roe, the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority upended that progress, dismantling a Constitutional right that most Americans have never lived without. Republican attacks on reproductive rights have sold out the American people in service of a dark vision: a country where freedom is reserved for a privileged few,” she said.

“Abortion is now unavailable in fourteen states. These laws have subjected nearly 18 million women to barbaric health care restrictions while threatening doctors with criminal charges for simply doing their jobs. Every day, these laws are forcing Americans through senseless, preventable anguish,” she continued.

With the court’s decision, the right to an abortion is now in the hands of the 50 state Legislatures. About half the states have acted to protect abortion access or already had protections enshrined in their state Constitutions. The rest have moved to restrict it in some form or to implement laws already on the books in preparation for Roe’s reversal.

Senate President Karen Spilka used the occasion of Roe’s anniversary to remind constituents of the steps the Commonwealth has taken since June and response to the court’s decision to end abortion protections.

“Following (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), we strengthened legal protections for abortion providers, out-of-state patients coming to Massachusetts, and insurers; and we made sure that Massachusetts courts will not be used to enforce restrictive abortion laws in other states,” she wrote in a Twitter thread.

“A woman’s ability to control her reproductive future is fundamental to her freedom, her agency, and her humanity. As Senate President, I will never waiver in fighting for women in Mass. to be able to exercise safe, dignified, and informed choice over their own bodies,” she wrote.

Sunday’s marches come on the heels of a demonstration by anti-abortion activists in Washington D.C., where on Friday tens of thousands gathered to celebrate the court’s decision and call on Republicans in Congress to prevent any law which would reestablish Roe’s protections.

President Joe Biden, also on Sunday, issued a memorandum directing the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security to work with the Attorney General to consider “issuing guidance for patients seeking legal access to mifepristone, as well as for providers and entities, including pharmacies, that provide reproductive healthcare and seek to legally prescribe and provide mifepristone,” in response to some states’ plans to block mail order sales of the abortion drug.

People march up Beacon Street in Boston during the Bigger Than Roe, National Day of Action. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
People gather on Boston Common during the Bigger Than Roe, National Day of Action. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)