Thousands of abortion rights activists and supporters gathered at the Bexar County Courthouse on Saturday morning for a rally and a march, two weeks after a leaked draft opinion indicated the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.
Community organizers, politicians and poets made speeches and led families – young and old – in chants before marching with a crowd that extended from San Fernando Cathedral to the federal courthouse.
During the march, it took about eight women to hold up Suzanne Martinez’s “Don’t Mess With Texas Women” banner.
Many of the signs in the plaza were freshly painted. But Martinez originally created her placard for the Women’s March on Washington in 2017.
“Unfortunately, we've been able to use it ever since then, about every year, three times a year," she said. "It's a very recycled sign.”
One of the women that helped Martinez carry the sign, 71-year-old Ellen Marshall, said she’s been championing reproductive rights since the 1960s.
“It’s very disappointing because it feels like we're going backwards,” she said, “It's very disappointing that we're still having to do this and that our old folks are still having to come out and do this, you know?”
While abortion is still legal in Texas – up to about six weeks of pregnancy – the Supreme Court’s final decision is expected in the next few months. It would be the first civil right already won to be retracted in U.S. history.
Lauryn Mann, a roller-blading protester with a San Antonio skating group, cried as she shared her fear of abortion becoming criminalized.
“People are going to die if abortion is taken away. Our people are going to die. (The) mortality rate is already really high with childbirth," she said. "So we need to lower that to take better care of people who became pregnant, no matter what.”
Downtown San Antonio pic.twitter.com/GUGF7ln9cK
Planned Parenthood South Texas hosted the "Bans Off San Antonio" rally and march. "It is necessary to act now, all across the country, not only to demonstrate that people support abortion access, but to show that we won’t back down," the group explained on its event page.
The crowd heard remarks from Mara Posada with Planned Parenthood South Texas, Director of Women’s March San Antonio Tahira Mammen, officials from the state, city and county, and several others.
Crowds chant at the #BansOffOurBodies Rally and March starting in front of San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas. What a visual. pic.twitter.com/2QWBwlnuWM
Planned Parenthood said in a statement on Friday night that the rally intended to "highlight what is at stake and the disproportionate attacks on reproductive freedoms impacting Black, brown, Indigenous, and other people of color, people with lower incomes, LGBTQ+ people, young people, and people from rural communities."
San Antonio was not the only city with a "Bans Off" rally. Partner events happened on Saturday across Texas and across the nation, including Washington D.C.
Today’s winners. #BansOffOurBodies pic.twitter.com/LGxU5fvbSp
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, a trigger law in Texas would quickly make it a felony for anyone to perform or help provide an abortion in the state.
A similar protest was held at the federal courthouse in early May, soon after the draft court opinion was leaked to the press. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales stood among the protestors and vowed to never prosecute anyone involved with an abortion in Bexar County.
“While I'm in charge, while I'm at the helm, while I'm making prosecutorial decisions, I'm here to tell the entire community of Bexar County that they not they don't need to be worrying about whether or not anybody is going to prosecute them for making a decision about their own bodies,” he said.
We teamed up with the talented Michelle Munoz to create some print at home posters for this weekend’s nationwide #BansOffOurBodies march. @PPFA @MoveOn @UltraViolet @womensmarch Download: https://t.co/AbDpawrqNl https://t.co/4JJohil8LM
Jerry Clayton and Bonnie Petrie contributed to this report.