After the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, demonstrations quickly erupted on the streets outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
In the crowd, the reaction was split: Anti-abortion activists cheered after their decades-long legal victory, while pro-choice protestors voiced anger, sadness and despair.
Rachel Nix, one of the pro-choice protestors, explained what made her come out to the streets to march. “I saw the news and was really angry,” she told PEOPLE. “I find a lot of community and solidarity in big protests, so even if we’re angry and upset, it’s nice to be able to kind of commiserate and be one with everyone else who’s feeling the same emotions as I.”
Noting why she believes people who can carry children should be allowed an abortion, Nix said, “It’s important to be able to make big decisions about their life that can affect the trajectory of their life.”
“Having a child is certainly something that changes your life permanently, so I don’t think you should be forced to go through that if that’s not something you want,” she continued.
Similar sentiments were shared by Gabby, a 17-year-old. “I’m about to go to college, I can’t just stop doing what I’m doing and go ahead and raise a child. I would not be able to afford that,” she explained to PEOPLE. “I don’t think a lot of people in this country — especially with the state of the economy, the state of politics and the state of global climate change — want to have an abortion, but if it comes to it, if it’s not the right time, you should be allowed to choose.”
Kelly Read told PEOPLE that getting an abortion has “always been an uphill battle.” She said, “I think women and people that are able to bear children have always had to fight for their rights.”
“I don’t think it was ever taken for granted,” she continued. “I think that people have always pushed for that access.”
The 23-year-old brought an “Abortion is Healthcare” sign to the protest, and explained what that meant for her. “I think anything that deals with how my body functions is health, and I should have the right to go seek care for that. I think it’s just that simple,” she said. “It’s a natural cycle that happens in my body, and if I should go see a doctor to discuss that, then I should have every right to do it and it should be healthcare.”
Grant Mobley, also 23, held the same sign during the rally. “I don’t think there is any one thing that necessarily determines what healthcare is, I think everyone should have the right to do with their body what they please,” he explained.
As for what the future looks like for pro-choice activists, providing support for abortion funds and getting prepared for what is to come are their biggest priorities. “I think always donating to your local abortion funds is really essential, especially funds that are in the south where abortion access is going to be most affected,” said Nix.
“Other than that,” she continued, “I think just building secure communities where we take care of one another, and promoting comprehensive sex education and birth control, [while providing] federal funding for all those things, is going to be really important.”
For Read, her biggest concern is the Supreme Court’s decision becoming a “slippery slope” into other legislative changes, such as same-sex marriage. “I think that the slippery slope concern is major,” she explained.
But, for the moment, Read says it is important to recognize what is under threat and to take “action to ensure that that doesn’t happen.” She added, “It’s what can we do now to prevent that from happening, but also being realistic in that, ‘Hey, it could happen.’ “
For elated pro-life campaigners, however, Friday’s decision was a cause for celebration. “It’s an amazing decision that took courage,” Georgia Republican Congressman Andrew Clyde told PEOPLE. “I’m down here to say, ‘Good job, Supreme Court,’ and to support them and what they’ve done.”
Pro-life activist Robert McHone — who held a sign reading “Abolish abortion now” — said he has been attending anti-abortion marches for decades. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” he explained.
McHone, 58, also told PEOPLE his opinion on the issue goes beyond religion. “It doesn’t have to be a religious issue,” he said. “It’s just life, you don’t have to be religious to recognize life.”
Demonstrations across the US are expected to continue throughout the weekend.
According to CNN, protests may occur in big and small cities in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, New Mexico and California, among others.
We must continue the fight.