The Supreme Court's plaza was packed with pro- and anti-abortion rights demonstrators Wednesday as the justices heard arguments in a case that could fundamentally change abortion law in the United States.
The justices will weigh whether to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. It’s considered the most significant challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in decades.
Both sides have framed this case as an all-or-nothing fight to reaffirm or end the constitutional right to an abortion, the Associated Press reports.
Crowds began to gather before sunrise and grew tremendously through the morning. The rival sides were partially divided by gates as demonstrators chanted and held signs with phrases including “abortion is murder” and “abortion is essential.”
“I truly believe it’s a slippery slope when you try to take away people’s abortion rights,” one protester said. “This precedent was set 50 years ago.”
“We’ve had a pandemic, a slew of other things, natural disasters all across the country, and the last thing we need is people taking away more of our rights,” another protester said.
Dozens of doctors in white coats, some associated with anti-abortion rights medical groups, traveled from as far as California and Tennessee.
“We see this as an important day in America, for American history. It really is about the dignity of human life,” Dr. Steven Braatz said.
Both sides were fired up and staunch in their positions, but the rally remained civil.
Capitol Police said they warned about 40 demonstrators to move out of First Street NE and Constitution Avenue.
Police officers on foot and riding bikes were patrolling the area since the first demonstrators arrived.
Dozens of anti-abortion activists held a candlelight vigil on the Supreme Court plaza Tuesday evening. Counterdemonstrators held up large cards spelling out “abortion is freedom” in bright blue letters.
Before 5 a.m. Wednesday, demonstrators wrapped in winter coats and sitting in folding chairs were waiting outside the building. A “stop abortion now” sign was seen on the ground.
Created Equal, an anti-abortion group, held a prayer vigil on Tuesday evening and planned to demonstrate more on Wednesday morning.
Photos: Pro- and Anti-Abortion Protesters Descend on Supreme Court
Pro-abortion rights groups including the Women’s March and the National Coalition of Reproductive Health Providers planned actions for later in the day.
One protester with Students for Life said she thinks the Roe decision is a bad precedent and states should be allowed to make abortion laws.
“What a law like this could do is actually return that decision back to the states, because states have the rights to create these types of bans and things,” she said.
The Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health isn’t expected until early next year.