Hundreds of protestors in Philadelphia took to the streets on Tuesday after a leaked draft opinion revealed the Supreme Court voted to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights.
Philadelphia residents congregated at City Hall at 6 p.m., blocking off the intersection at John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Broad Street, and began marching south at 7:15 p.m. On Penn's campus, students and other members of the Penn community marched down Locust Walk starting at 7 p.m. chanting "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!" and "They say no-choice; we say pro-choice!"
POLITICO reported on the evening of May 2 that an initial draft majority opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito circulating around the court was leaked to the general public. Alito repudiated the historic 1973 decision, which created federal constitutional protection of abortion rights, as "egregiously wrong from the start" in the document labeled “Opinion of the Court."
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote in the leaked document. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Over 100 pro-abortion rights protestors marched across Penn's campus on Tuesday evening, starting at the Compass and ending in front College Green, to denounce the leaked opinion. College first years Gabrielle Galchen — a former staffer in 34th Street — and Isabella Risoli, who organized the march down Locust Walk, spoke at the protest.
"As much as anti-abortion politicians say they support women's rights and they support feminism, they clearly don't," Risoli said. "Because if they did, they wouldn't use 'pro-life' as a euphemism for gender discrimination."
Galchen said women should have autonomy over their bodies regarding the choice to get an abortion.
"This choice is fundamental to her human rights," Galchen said. "This choice means that her uterus is not government property. It's not anyone's property. It's her property, hers alone."
Until a formal opinion is published — likely in June — the opinion is still subject to changes and revisions, according to CNN Politics. In a Tuesday statement, Chief Justice John Roberts denounced the leak as a "a singular and egregious breach" of trust and announced the launch of an investigation by the Marshal of the Court into the source of the leak.
Galchen and Risoli told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they organized the protest when they learned of the leaked opinion, citing frustrations about restricting abortion rights. Risoli said that she was "alarmed" reading the opinion written by Alito.
"Raw sadness turned into anger that made us say to each other 'Let's do a demonstration,'" Galchen said. She explained that the protest was spread through word of mouth and a GroupMe chat.
At City Hall, pro-abortion rights protestors chanted “Her body, her choice!” while carrying signs that read “Reproductive rights are human rights," "Abortion is healthcare," and “We won’t go back.” Philadelphia City Councilmember At-Large Kendra Brooks was in attendance and spoke to the crowd numbering in the hundreds.
“Some of us were sleeping last night and we woke up to a nightmare, but a nightmare can be an opportunity — an opportunity for people to wake the hell up,” Brooks said on the steps of City Hall. “Somehow we’ve gotten very comfortable about women’s rights, because we’ve come a long way, but we still have so much to go.”
Brooks called on people to press congressional leaders to write legal abortion into law and invest in organizations that help provide equal access to safe abortions.
“Many of us women have been shamed. We don’t talk about it. We try not to mention it. We hide behind signs instead of saying, ‘I made the right choice for my body,’” she said.
Senate Democrats are pushing legislation that would codify abortion rights, but they face significant hurdles such as ending the filibuster, which requires most bills to garner 60 votes to pass the Senate. At least two senators have said they do not support abolishing the filibuster.
The possible outlaw of abortion in dozens of states also threatens to shake up the midterm elections, with hopes from the Democratic Party that the drafted Supreme Court decision will motivate people who are pro-abortion rights to throw their support behind Democrats.
Sariyah Thomas, a student at William W. Bodine High School for International Affairs who was in attendance at the City Hall protest, told the DP she is shocked that women still have to fight for abortion rights in the United States.
“This is not something we will stop fighting for,” she said. “This is a human right.”