WASHINGTON: Carrying signs with slogans like “my body, my choice, my right” thousands of women rallied on Saturday in Washington at the start of a day of nationwide protests aimed at countering a conservative drive to restrict access to abortions.

The perennial fight over the procedure in America has become even more intense since Texas adopted a law on September 1 banning almost all abortions, unleashing a fierce counterattack in the courts and in Congress, but with few public demonstrations until now.

Two days before the US Supreme Court, which will have the final say on the contentious issue, is due to reconvene, nearly 200 organisations have called on abortion rights defenders to make their voices heard from coast to coast.

The flagship event was in the nation’s capital Washington, where a crowd of all ages — mostly women but men too — rallied under sunny skies at a square near the White House, many wearing purple masks with the words “bans off my body.”

Protesters danced to pop music blared from loudspeakers, as activists addressed the crowd in recorded interviews broadcast on large screens, and slogans like “abortion is healthcare” or “abort the Texas Taliban” were held aloft on signs, or daubed on protesters’ bodies.

A handful of counter protesters shouted “abortion is murder” but there was no violence.

Later the crowd was to march toward the Supreme Court, which nearly 50 years ago recognised the right of women to have an abortion in its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Now the court, stacked by former president Donald Trump with conservative justices, seems ready to head in the opposite direction.

“Women are humans, we are full humans, and we need to be treated like full humans,” said Laura Bushwitz, a 66-year-old retired teacher from Florida, wearing a dress with portraits of women activists and politicians, like Michelle Obama.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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