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What people said outside the Supreme Court after Roe v. Wade was overturned

Abortion rights demonstrators hold signs outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday.
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - JUNE 24: Abortion rights demonstrators hold signs outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., United States on June 24, 2022. A deeply divided Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and wiped out the constitutional right to abortion, issuing a historic ruling likely to render the procedure largely illegal in half the country. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Demonstrators from both sides of the abortion issue gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday after the court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion that was guaranteed nearly 50 years ago by Roe v. Wade.

Signs reading "Rise up for abortion rights" were juxtaposed to those saying "I'm the post-Roe generation."

Although the crowd remained peaceful, there were heated conversations between groups. Lauren Cattaneo, who was there with her 17-year-old daughter, spent half an hour speaking with a group of young men who were celebrating the court's decision.

"I understand that they are using what they know in order to back up a passionate opinion that they have, but it's hard to stand there and be lectured to by people who have certainly never been pregnant," Cattaneo said.

She said she used to go to "clinic defenses" with her mother when she was in high school, where she'd help people access health facilities as protesters tried to block them from entering.

Being outside the Supreme Court decades later with the constitutional protection gone is surreal, Cattaneo said.

"The idea that there we were, and now my daughter, who is on the cusp of womanhood, has fewer rights and that there's less access for people her age than there was back then, it's just makes me despair," she said, shaking her head. "I mean, it just, it doesn't feel like I'm passing the torch. It feels like somehow we failed, or we thought everything was OK and it just wasn't."

Those who opposed abortion rights sang their own rendition of Steam's classic "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," to mark what they view as a victory. They were met by chants of "safe and legal" from abortion-rights supporters.

Ellie McFarland, 18, drove in from Maryland Friday morning when she heard the news. She says there's a stereotype that all young people support abortion rights.

"I think it's a very convenient political line to say that pro-lifers are a bunch of old white men, there's no people of color, no women, no young women or young people who believe this," she said. "It's very easy and convenient to be like these people don't exist."

McFarland, who was heckled by a protester while speaking to NPR, said she was heartened to see advocacy on both sides of the issue.

"I see the passion on both sides. I mean, it's an incredibly serious issue. Either you believe that we just stopped babies from being murdered in droves or you're believing that women are being enslaved," she said. "Both of these are incredibly serious issues, and if you're not showing up for either of those, I think you're just lazy."

Though the decision came on Friday, it has largely been expected since early May, when a draft opinion indicating the court was poised to overturn Roe was leaked. Security measures were increased around the court following the leak and remain in place, including fencing around the entire court building, with surrounding sidewalks also blocked off.

Michelle Robinzine, a D.C. resident by way of Texas, came with her niece, Jayla. She said the decision makes her feel hopeless.

"I think is ridiculous. I think there's no way that anyone should have to or be able to tell a woman if she is or is not having a baby," she said. "I think it's going to disproportionately affect women of color and women without means that we won't be able to travel somewhere else where abortion is legal. And I think it's a sad day for our country."

Mary Irish, who is visiting D.C. from North Carolina, said she assumed the court would stay its course after the draft decision was leaked but said she's still incredibly disappointed. She's 73 years old and remembers when abortion was not a constitutional right.

"People had to go to back alleys, and get infections from these illegal abortions and go to places they would have never gone to," she recalled. "I used to live in LA and a friend had to fly to New York to get an abortion, and another friend had just a horrible experience. I don't want anyone to have to abide by a decision like that — this is a personal decision."

Her daughter-in-law, Theresa Irish, held a sign that read "I'm not fat, I'm just making room for the government in my uterus." She said she blames Democrats for not doing enough to prevent this day from happening.

"We don't have the tendency to take the fight all the way to the mattresses, the way that the GOP does," she said. "If we did, it would make a difference."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.