Thousands come together in protest, call for abortion rights


Protesters speak out at the defend abortion rally at the Massachusetts statehouse steps, May 3, 2022.

Alexa Grayson, News Staff

Chants for reproductive rights echoed through the Boston Common May 3 as thousands of demonstrators came together to protest the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

The rally, which was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Boston Liberation Center and more organizations, took place one day after POLITICO leaked the first draft majority opinion May 2 on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court case, which indicated the court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. 

Rachel Domond, one of the organizers of the rally and a volunteer at the Boston Liberation Center, said protecting abortion rights is essential.

“Abortion is a basic human need and should be a basic human right,” Domond told The News. “We fought for this right. There’s no reason it should be stripped away or even be under siege.” 

Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, which legalized abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively preventing state governments from infringing on the right to privacy. Prior to Roe v. Wade, there was a high rate of illegal, and often unsafe, abortions. In 1965, just eight years before Roe v. Wade, 17% of deaths related to childbirth and pregnancy were from unsafe abortions. 

Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which was decided in 1992, upheld Roe v. Wade’s arguments. 

The potential overturning of these landmark decisions has angered many Boston residents who argue it is a blatant attack on the reproductive rights of people with uteruses.

If these cases are overturned, states will have sole discretion to decide whether or not abortion will be legalized. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are likely to outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Domond said abortion bans would disproportionatley harm people of color and the working class.

“Throughout history, Black women have been subject to the worst forms of bodily exploitation and regulation. It’s Black women who have a maternal mortality rate over two-times that of white women…,” Domond said in a speech. “It’s Black women who are consistently blamed for the failing social order of this country regardless of whether we decide to abort or have kids. I say enough is enough.” 

Another speaker, Claire Grossi, an organizer with the Socialist Alternative, called the Supreme Court’s opinion a “devastating blow to reproductive rights.” 

“Without access to safe, legal abortion, hundreds of thousands of women, non-binary and trans people will be forced to carry unwanted or potentially life-threatening pregnancies to term,” Grossi said. 

With the leakage of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, the power of the judges is being called into question. Many argue the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t reflect the views of the general public.

“The Supreme Court is full of justices who have not been elected, who have heavy influence over the people. They were not elected and have lifetime terms, which is ridiculous,” said Alexandra Nieto, a third-year biology major at Northeastern. 

Maya Harel, an attendee at the rally and a third-year political science and communications combined major, said she worried this would happen when Justice Amy Coney Barrett was elected to the Supreme Court in 2020. 

“I knew it was a matter of time, and now that the day has come, it’s like a signal to fight,” said Harel, who is also the vice chair of the Northeastern Young Democratic Socialists of America. 

Teresa Eliot Roberts, a nurse at Planned Parenthood in Jamaica Plain, spoke at the rally and recounted her experience working at one of the Brookline Planned Parenthoods targeted during the fatal 1994 shooting

“When I was a very new nurse, my very first nursing job was at Planned Parenthood at Brookline,” Roberts said. “One December day, I wasn’t at work that day … but that day, a fellow came into my clinic and shot five people and killed my friend and co-worker Shannon [Lowney] as well as another woman, Leanne Nichols, who worked down the street.” 

Roberts said if the anti-choice movement were really “pro-life,” clinic providers wouldn’t be killed or threatened. She said she enjoys giving abortion care and finds it to be very rewarding to be there for someone during that transition in their life. 

“I want to be able to take care of you no matter who you are. No matter what age you are, no matter what your skin looks like, no matter what gender you affiliate with, no matter how much money you have or don’t have,” Roberts said. “We’re lucky here in Massachusetts, relatively speaking.”

Attorney General Maura Healey took to Twitter May 2 to assert that “abortion will remain legal in Massachusetts.”

Mandy Wilkens, a volunteer for the Boston Liberation Center and the former co-chair of the planning committee for Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in 2019, spoke about the importance of protecting trans lives and the impact anti-abortion laws could have on the transgender community.

“I can’t be the only one who has noticed that these attacks on reproductive justice are coming at the same time as the most vicious attacks on LGBTQ+ rights I’ve ever seen in my life,” Wilkens said. “Trans people get abortions too. Transphobia in our medical system is so rampant and it’s very difficult and terrifying to get basic things like gender-affirming healthcare. These attacks on abortion rights will further scare trans people, especially trans people seeking reproductive justice.” 

After a series of speakers, there was about an hour-long march through the streets of downtown Boston, ending back at the Massachusetts Statehouse where it started. 

Attendees shouted “When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” among many other chants.

“I think the turnout was great. People are enraged at the fact that anyone has to face the potential consequence of not having access to this life-saving procedure,” Domond said to The News. “It’s not just abortion that we need to care about when we talk about reproductive health. It’s access to clinics, payment, having mental health, health insurance…”

At Northeastern, the NU Roe Response Coalition was formed recently by students to advocate for abortion rights and bodily autonomy, and to share information regarding protests and community organizing to protect abortion rights. The coalition held a rally May 13 on Centennial Common to demand free reproductive care at Northeastern, trauma-informed therapists to support survivors of sexual violence, free STI testing and sex education. 

“Fifty years ago it took a mass movement to get Roe v. Wade,” Grossi said. “Now it’s going to take a mass movement to defend it.”