By Steven Monacelli
In the the days following the historic and far-reaching U.S. Supreme Court decision that officially overturned Roe v. Wade, thousands of protesters have rallied across North Texas to express their opposition to the restriction of abortion rights. Here in Dallas, more than a handful of protests have already been organized within the two weeks since the decision was handed down. The protests have varied in size and focus, but they are all united by one common trait: the people attending them are absolutely pissed off.
Having anticipated the decision after the leak of the draft opinion in May, a coalition of local groups was ready to mobilize on the same day the court scrapped nearly five decades of abortion rights protections. On Friday, June 24, hundreds gathered in Civic Garden across from the boarded up federal building.
“I need y’all to get mad as hell,” Uduak Nkanga shouted into a microphone, as reported by the Dallas Morning News.
Nkanga is a policy associate at the Afiya Center, the Black-women led reproductive justice organization that was among the coalition of groups behind the rally and hour-long march through the streets of downtown.
The strong language in the chants from the crowd, along with the messages on their signs, made it clear they were livid. And they had reason to be. Texas is among the 13 states which have anti-abortion “trigger laws” on the books. Under the sweltering summer sun on that Friday afternoon, the protesters faced the reality that a protected right had not only been ripped away, but criminalized. In June, Gov. Greg Abbott passed a law that says those who perform or help provide an abortion will face a punishment of up to life in prison and $100,000 in fines.
Such abortion bans won’t impact everyone equally. Those with access to resources and healthcare are less likely to face risks associated with unplanned pregnancies, are better equipped to deal with them, and will still able to seek out abortion services out of state as long as further bans are not put in place. But as Nkanga told the Dallas Morning News in no uncertain terms, abortion bans such as the one in Texas will disproportionately hurt Black women, who are more likely to be unemployed, uninsured, lack economic resources, and face discrimination.
The stories and statements shared by protesters are infused with a profound mix of urgency, despair, and rage. Half a dozen protests have been held in Dallas alone in less than 12 days, a pace which has not been seen since the wave of anti-police brutality protests in 2020. Each protest has drawn hundreds of people, who have braved scathing temperatures for hours to make their voices heard.
Another protest numbering in the hundreds marched through the baking streets of downtown Dallas Saturday, June 25. The pressure didn’t let up after the weekend was over, nor did the heat. On Wednesday, June 29, hundreds of abortion rights protesters gathered outside of City Hall under the noonday sun. After a brief but intense verbal clash between abortion rights protesters a handful of anti-abortion counter protesters was deescalated with the help of police officers, the protesters again took to the streets. Later on during that march, a man nearly hit protesters in his car, as show in videos shares by a Spectrum News reporter. No one was hit nor arrested.
On Saturday, July 2, protesters again gathered downtown to rally and march. Several women shared impassioned stories of what abortion access has meant to them, and in some instances, how it has literally saved their lives. In response to the incidents on Wednesday, as well as a general uptick in right wing extremist mobilization across the country, a handful of abortion rights activists chose to participate in the march while open-carrying carrying pistols and long arms — a choice which drew a noticeable stir from right wing media.
Armed activists march with the abortion rights protest through downtown Dallas on July 2. Two more protests were held on Monday, July 4, one in the morning and one in the evening. Both protests saw hundreds march through downtown Dallas and drew local right wing extremists, who filmed and hurled slurs at the protesters. At one point, two Christian extremist counter protesters with feudal era beliefs were peacefully prevented from disrupting the evening protest by a man in feudal era armor.
Holly Latiolais, a teacher based in Dallas who helped organize the morning protest, says that a lot of women she has spoken to are feeling like they’re backed into a corner and are feeling helpless, but that those who have attended the protests have taken away a little hope.
“Quite a few people have told me they felt powerful and a bit liberated by taking part,” Latiolais said.
For some protesters, screaming and chanting has helped them process the emotional shock in the wake of such sudden change. And while screaming and chanting certainly will not reestablish abortion rights, protest organizers understand that protests are only one part of a much larger effort. Voter registration forms have been a regular presence at each protest. And the message to do more than just protest from organizers is the norm.
“If we want change, people will need to find a variety of ways to help,” Latiolais says. Some people can’t make it out to the protests and rallies. But they may be able to help by donating to abortion funds, or signing petitions, or calling your representatives. We need to research every way we can help. And then vote, obviously.”
Another protest, the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March, is planned for this coming Saturday, July 9 at Main Street Garden Park in downtown Dallas.