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Thousands gather for pro-abortion rights protests across U.S.

Abortion rights groups to rally nationwide
What to know about this weekend’s abortion rights rallies, protests scheduled 02:28

Supporters of abortion rights took to the streets across America on Saturday to voice their anger over a leaked majority draft opinion by the Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Cries of "My body, my choice" rang out as activists committed to fighting for what they called reproductive freedom.

In the nation's capital, thousands gathered at the Washington Monument before marching to the Supreme Court, which is now surrounded by two layers of security fences. 
Members of Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, were expected to attend "to call for increased access to abortion and a rejection of the overturn of Roe v. Wade."

Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's "dissent" collar on it, and a necklace that spelled out "vote."

Supreme Court Abortion Protests
Protesters rally in Cadman Plaza during an abortion rights demonstration, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.  Jeenah Moon / AP

"I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don't think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life," Loehr said.

From Pittsburgh to Pasadena, California, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in "Bans off our Bodies" events. Organizers expected that among the hundreds of events, the largest would take place in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other big cities. Sponsors included the Women's March, Move On, Planned Parenthood, UltraViolet, MoveOn, SEIU and other organizations.

"If it's a fight they want, it's a fight they'll get," Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women's March, said before the event began.

Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.

"I was already starting to self harm and I would have rather died than have a baby," said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.

At that rally, speaker after speaker told the crowd that if abortion is banned that the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be "gutted," as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, put it.

"This has never been just about abortion. It's about control," Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. "My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen," she added.

Supreme Court Abortion Protests
Protesters hold up signs during an abortion rights demonstration, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in New York.  Jeenah Moon / AP

Even though the leaked draft opinion does not represent the final position of any member of the court, it has raised concerns that the court could rule as soon as next month, when it decides on a controversial abortion law in Mississippi.

On Wednesday, a bill to codify Roe into law failed to pass the Senate. Even with Vice President Kamala Harris presiding, Senate Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass federal abortion rights protections.

"This Senate failed to stand in defense of a woman's right to make decisions about her own body," the vice president said after the vote.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin voted to block the bill, saying it went too far.

"This is not Roe v. Wade codification, it's an expansion," he said.

On Friday, House Democrats gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to voice their support for abortion rights.

"Hands off women's reproductive health care," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

"They won't stop until a national nationwide abortion ban is enacted," Rep. Barbara Lee added.

Supreme Court Abortion
An abortion-rights protester places portraits of some of the U.S Supreme Court judges during a demonstration outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Sunday, May 8, 2022, in Washington.  Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

On "CBS Mornings" Friday, Senate Minority Whip John Thune said the issue should be decided by individual states.

"This is a decision made by nine unelected judges and it's now going to go back to the people and their elected representatives," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Democrats will continue to focus on this issue between now and the midterm elections this November.

"Elect more MAGA Republicans if you want to see a nationwide ban on abortions, if you want to see doctors and women arrested, if you want to see no exceptions for rape and incest," Schumer said.

Kimmons, 46, said she believes the focus needs to be on those races. "We have to vote in pro-choice politicians because women's lives depend on it," she said.

Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse, agreed about the need to vote.

Senator Thune on what potential abortion changes could mean 06:18

"As much as federal elections, voting in every small election matters just as much," said Nyquist, who wheeled her 1-year-old daughter in a stroller and held her 3-year-old daughter's hand while walking to the Chicago rally.

In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.

Jessica Cisneros joined demonstrators just days before early voting begins in her primary runoff against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. The race could be one of the first tests over whether the court leak will galvanize voters.

Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say. If that happens, roughly half of states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.

Meanwhile, Justice Clarence Thomas, who has come under criticism for his wife's political activism, said Friday the leak has fundamentally changed the institution. 

"You begin to look over your shoulder," he said. "It's like kind of an infidelity that you can explain it, but you can't undo it."

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