Pro-Choice Protesters Stage Sit-In at White House (photos)

Persistent rain did not deter more than a thousand abortion rights activists from marching to the White House on July 9 to stage a mass sit-in. “We call for this because we want to continue to put pressure on the Biden administration and our elected officials to take action in support of abortion rights,” said Tamika Middleton, managing director of the Women’s March and one of the rally’s organizers.

A plethora of green bandanas decorated the White House fence, while some demonstrators used the bandanas to physically fasten themselves to the steel structure and chanted, “Legal Abortion Now,” “Hands off our Body” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Hundreds prepared to be arrested. However, the U.S. Secret Service took no action during the peaceful demonstration, and by early afternoon the group disbanded.

The green bandana which has become a symbol of the abortion rights movement around the world traces its origins to 2003 and the ultimately successful struggle for abortion rights in Argentina. The color green “signifies life (in nature) and we’re confronted by a sector that calls itself ‘pro-life’ and robs us of the word,” said Argentine feminist leader Marta Alanis, now 73. 

This latest demonstration came two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, and just one day after President Biden signed an executive order taking incremental steps to protect abortion services. Biden’s executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to boost access to abortion pills and protect access to emergency medical care and family planning services, including various types of contraception. At least nine states have banned abortion so far, and a dozen more states are expected to prohibit or restrict the procedure in the coming weeks.

Lisa Sales, president of the Virginia National Organization for Women, held a banner with five compatriots quoting from the landmark Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 which narrowly missed being ratified. “Our message” said Sales, “is equal rights are repro rights. Without constitutional gender equality in our Constitution we have nothing…. We could codify Roe in the states. We could codify Roe in Congress. But we need to publish ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s not just some 1970s old relic. It’s modern. It’s for today. And without the 28th Amendment to the Constitution being published women will never be equal citizens. We’ll always be second-class citizens.” Sales claims the original ERA still has life. In 2020, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a ratification resolution for the ERA, claiming to bring the number of ratifications to 38, putting it over the top for a 2/3 state majority, though legal hurdles remain.

“It’s nobody’s business but mine,” said Gillian, who drove to the rally from New Bern, North Carolina. When asked about arguments for protecting the unborn: “What about the people who are already here that are suffering? People being trafficked. Children that are being abused in foster care. All at the border that are trying to get here to save their own lives. What about those lives? That’s what I say… I think [the president] has done all that he can. I’m pleased with him. I enjoy being bored by a politician after four years of Trump. Are you kidding me?”

Gillian’s companion for the day, Ronni from Greenville, North Carolina, added, “I’m not a religious person whatsoever. And even if you are, that’s okay, because this is America and that’s your right. You can be religious, but you don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do based on your religion,” and adding “(we are) just trying to get people to realize if you want change, you better go vote… if you don’t like who’s in office, go vote ’em out.”

“I just believe that it’s our fundamental right that in our Constitution there should be a separation between church and state. And I don’t want your religion dictating what I do with my own body” said Amy from St. Paul, Minnesota. “We did what we came out to do… It felt invigorating to be around so many people that see the same injustice that I do. And I’m really happy to be here to support the cause.”

View a slideshow of Jeff Malet’s photos from the abortion rights rally and sit-in in front of the White House by clicking on the photo icons below.


One comment on “Pro-Choice Protesters Stage Sit-In at White House (photos)”

  • Gail Buckner says:

    The word suffragette is used in the photo captions. The correct word is suffragist. Google what the National Parks Services has to say abotu suffragette. It is not necessary to post my comment, but please correct your verbage.

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