July 24, 2024

© Nathan Howard/AP
Protesters and Planned Parenthood representatives speak during a Planned Parenthood rally in support of abortion access outside the Supreme Court on April 15 in Washington.

A federal judge’s ruling to suspend approval of a pill used for abortions drew hundreds of protesters to a rally Saturday in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and many said reproductive rights were under threat along with the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate medication based on scientific evidence.

Speakers from Planned Parenthood and abortion rights demonstrators called on the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling last week from U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Texas that suspended approval of mifepristone, a pill used in more than half of all abortions in the United States, over the FDA’s judgment. The FDA first approved the medication in 2000.

The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily restored full access to the abortion drug, giving itself more time to review Kacsmaryk’s ruling.

At Saturday’s protest, attendees carried signs that said “Abortion Is Health Care” and “Bans Off Our Bodies” as Planned Parenthood activists handed out pink T-shirts, bottled water and generic Plan B medication. One rally attendee dressed as a character from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women are subjected to childbearing slavery. The crowd marched around the Capitol building, across the street from the Supreme Court, before ending the protest.

Those at the protest said it was important for the justices to know where they stand on the issue.

“The mifepristone situation is totally going against a system of evidence and laws that have worked well for us and have brought safe medication to the American people,” said Janet Holbrook, a rally attendee from Crownsville, Md.

U.S. to ask Supreme Court to restore full access to abortion pill

Added Michelle Koul of Severna Park, Md.: “It’s just another example of how people are willing to dismantle democracy to get what they want.”

Others said that the judge overstepped his authority.

“He doesn’t have standing to do that,” said Dena Lebowitz of Silver Spring. “It’s backlash. It’s major backlash. They don’t want women to be equal citizens, to have jobs, to have control over their bodies.”

The D.C. protest was one of several rallies scheduled for Saturday in cities across the United States. Vice President Harris made an unexpected stop in support of “fundamental rights,” at a march held in downtown Los Angeles.

At the D.C. protest, Laura Meyers, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, addressed more than 500 rally attendees.

A small group of counterdemonstrators with bullhorns attempted to drown out her remarks, chanting, “Abortion is murder! Abortion bans save lives!”

“If you have any doubt about why you’re here, you are here because of them,” Meyers said, referring to the counterprotesters. “We are not going to let extremists take over our country. We are not going to let them strip us of our rights. They are the minority. We are the majority.”

Meyers in an interview said most Americans support abortion rights, yet the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that had guaranteed those rights for a half-century, and “now we have judges who are not medical doctors making decisions that affect millions of people’s lives,” she said, referring to Kacsmaryk’s ruling.

“I am outraged,” Meyers said. “I hope that the court relies on science, and not just junk and ideology. I hope that the court understands that the overwhelming vast majority of Americans do not want to see restrictions on abortion. Americans do not want judges and politicians interfering with our health care decisions.”

In a divided nation, dueling decisions on the abortion pill

Christina Young, of Severna Park, said that as a child of the 1970s, she never experienced the lack of choice women now face.

“There has always been the idea that there’s men who think they can make these choices for our nation,” Young said.

Kristyn Brandi, an obstetrician and gynecologist who addressed the crowd, said judges are ill-equipped to second-guess the FDA’s medical experts on which drugs are safe to use, and she cautioned against viewing mifepristone as a drug only used for abortion.

“We’re getting more and more data that we can use it in labor induction, and using it to treat things like fibroids and endometriosis,” Brandi said. “I think people haven’t thought about the broad implications of just plucking away one medication.”

She added: “It’s not going to just stop abortion care; it’s going to prevent miscarriage care — all this other care that’s impacted by this medicine.”

Frank Klassen of Herndon, Va., who attended the rally with his wife Cindy Denchfield, said that although he was there to support “all the women in my life” including his daughters, the legal battle over access to mifepristone transcended the issue of abortion.

“It’s crazy that a non-medical-trained judge decides on banning a medication that’s safe,” he said. “It’s an attack on rights of people everywhere.”