Women’s March for abortion rights underway nationwide

The first Women's March of the Biden administration heads straight for the steps of the Supreme Court on Saturday, part of nationwide protests that drew thousands to Washington and other cities to demand continued access to abortion in a year when conservative lawmakers and judges have put it in jeopardy.

Many thousands of women filled a square near the White House for a rally before the march. They waved signs that said "Mind your own uterus," "I love someone who had an abortion" and "Abortion is a personal choice, not a legal debate," among other messages. Some wore T-shirts reading simply "1973," a reference to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal for generations of American women.

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Organizers say the Washington march will be among hundreds of protests around the country Saturday, with many protesters demanding continued access to abortion. The demonstrations come days before the start of a new term for the Supreme Court that will decide the future of abortion rights in the United States, after appointments of justices by President Donald Trump strengthened conservative control of the high court.

The march is part of "a fight to secure, safeguard, and strengthen our constitutional right to an abortion," Rachel O'Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women's March, said in a statement. "And it’s a fight against the Supreme Court justices, state lawmakers, and senators who aren’t on our side — or aren’t acting with the urgency this moment demands."

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The march comes a day after the Biden administration urged a federal judge to block the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions in Texas since early September. It's one of a series of cases that will give the nation's divided high court occasion to uphold or overrule Roe v. Wade.

According to the Washington Post, organizers chose to hold the march in October this year in order to protest Texas’ historic anti-abortion legislation, and also Mississippi’s direct challenge to Roe v Wade coming in December.

According to organizers, more than 600 rallies are planned in all 50 states with more than 70,000 people set to join. 

The Women's March has become a regular event — although interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic — since millions of women turned out in the United States and around the world the day after the January 2017 inauguration of Trump. Trump endorsed punishing women for getting abortions and made appointing conservative judges a mission of his presidency.

Without Trump as a central figure for women of varied political beliefs to rally against, and with the pandemic still going strong, organizers anticipated hundreds of thousands of participants nationally Saturday, not the millions of 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.