Hundreds of abortion rights supporters gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to celebrate the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and show their willingness to defend Roe from challenges launched by the Bush Administration and Congress. The Washington, DC chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) organized the vigil in front of the Court, which featured speeches by several national women’s rights leaders including NOW President Kim Gandy, Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, National Council of Women’s Organizations Executive Director Martha Burk, and Silvia Henriquez of the National Abortion Federation.
Speakers emphasized the possible retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justices and lifetime appointments of reactionary anti-abortion Justices to the Court by President Bush. Currently, abortion rights hang by a razor thin 5-4 margin in the Court, and the appointment of more anti-choice Supreme Court Justices could reverse Roe altogether, ending legal abortion in the U.S. and putting thousands of women’s lives at risk. Also at issue are the federal Courts of Appeals. Eleanor Smeal especially highlighted the critical importance of protecting these courts, eight of which are already anti-choice, from being stacked with Justices who will not support Roe. “We won’t go back!” roused Smeal. “We insist that the U.S. Senate filibuster any federal court of appeals nominee that stand opposed to abortion rights.”
Another focal point of the vigil were the upcoming 2002 elections, as both houses of Congress currently have anti-choice majorities and the President is an avowed abortion opponent. Kim Gandy cautioned, “The president and the Congress will soon get the message that they have more to fear from the women’s vote than they do from the right wing.”