The stakes were high — and the energy level even higher — outside the Supreme Court on Monday as advocates on both sides of the abortion debate gathered to await a decision on Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, a challenge to a Texas law that placed restrictions on abortion providers.
Girl-power anthems by Beyoncé (“Formation,” “Flawless” and “Sorry,” to name just a few), Madonna (“Like a Virgin”) and Shania Twain (“I Feel Like a Woman”) blasted over the sound system that had been set up in front of the court’s steps, with advocates from both sides singing along and dancing to the beat. Ahead of the decision, abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates stood side by side, chanting loudly and competing for attention from photographers and videographers documenting the scene.
The Supreme Court ultimately struck down Texas’s abortion restrictions, which was seen as a huge victory for abortion rights advocates. When the decision came down shortly after 10 a.m., an enormous cheer erupted among the abortion rights crowd. The case was seen as the most critical abortion case at the court in years.
Standing outside of the court, Leila Abolfazli, a former senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said she supported women’s access to abortions.
“I strongly believe that this case is central to women’s dignity, autonomy, lives and their families,” she said, holding a sign that said, “The Burden Is Undue.”
The abortion opponents, though outnumbered, made their presence at the court known. Some held signs with slogans such as “Women Do Regret Abortion” and “I am the Pro-Life Generation.”
Bobbi Carper, who works for the medical nonprofit AVA Care, said, “I believe abortion hurts women because they never grieve the loss of their child and it manifests itself in their own self-abuse.”
Sierra Lambert, 17, came from Virginia to speak out against abortion that day. “I have recently decided to become a midwife, so I see the value in life,” she said. “I don’t understand why it’s illegal to murder someone but you can kill an unborn child legally.” She carried a sign that read “Abortion kills!”
“These laws are important for black women,” said Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice. She said that when health-care providers like the ones in Texas are forced to close, it can make it harder for women of color and poor women to gain access to care, and she also noted that these clinics provided services such as prenatal care in addition to abortions.
The court also overturned former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell’s public corruption conviction, and in another ruling, said those convicted of domestic abuse could be banned from owning guns — to little reaction from the crowd gathered outside.