This piece was originally published by Glamour.
We want to take to the streets, and we don’t want to go alone. And so we protest for abortion rights—as communities, as cities and towns, as families, as faith groups. This Saturday, May 14, major abortion rights protests plan to take over in every state. Expect a massive, national outcry.
On May 2 it was reported that the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that found that access to abortion is a constitutional right. It is simultaneously an emergency and a call to action. States have been limiting, banning, and even criminalizing abortion for years. But if and when Roe falls, it will be like nothing we have seen since the 1970s. States have set up “trigger laws,” such that as soon as the Supreme Court decision goes out, at least 26 states are “certain or likely” to ban abortion, according to analysis from the Guttmacher Institute.
“Either abortion will be outlawed in your state or your state will become a state that needs to start providing abortions to people who are coming from out of state,” Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, told Glamour last week. “So this will have an impact on every single person in this country.”
Across the country, women—and nonbinary people, men, and children—feel betrayed and abandoned by conservative lawmakers. Forced birth is already happening. It’s time to take action. Remember: Protests are valuable. But activists who have been fighting on the forefront of the movement for reproductive freedom for years say that it should be just one of many powerful actions taken. Here’s what you need to know about Saturday.
How to find your local protest
On May 14, several organizations are planning major protests and rallies in cities across the nation. The biggest centralized effort is the Bans Off Our Bodies Day of Action for Abortion Rights. You can find the Saturday Bans Off Our Bodies action closest to you right here.
Bans Off Our Bodies events are being organized by a super group that includes Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March, Liberate Abortion, UltraViolet, MoveOn, and Service Employees International Union (a labor union of about 2 million health care workers). Participants include a range of organizations, from major nonprofits like the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, League of Women Voters, to crucial lesser-known organizations like the Yellowhammer Fund, which focuses on abortion rights in Alabama, Mississippi, and the Deep South.
Another option is events organized by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights. This is a much newer group, established just this year. It has put together several abortion-0rights protests and has put out a statement signed by luminaries including Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, Lilly Wachowski, Cornel West, Rafia Zakaria, and Kathy Najimy. Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights has planned protests in 41 cities this Saturday, and you can find the one closest to you here.
How to prepare for a protest
Writing for Teen Vogue in 2020, columnist Kandist Mallett recommended a few excellent best practices for protesting: Go with a buddy or a group that you trust and stick together. Wear shoes you can walk in—or run, if necessary. Bring water. Consider a portable charger. Do not take pictures of people in the crowed without their permission.
Consider taking next-level actions like turning off the location on your phone. “We’ve seen with previous protests that police use social media location data collected during protests to help create more predictive policing systems,” Mallett writes. “While the Supreme Court has ruled that police generally need a search warrant to access individual location data, police have been known to use devices called cell site simulators as a workaround to directly access this information in real time.”
And don’t forget to make a sign.
I don’t do well at protests. What are my other options?
There are many vital ways to contribute to the fight for reproductive rights, and protesting is just one. Read up on expert advice on how to help out—by getting involved with an abortion rights group, giving financially, contacting lawmakers, and having hard conversations with people in your life who would seek to force pregnancy on strangers.
Are protests really impactful?
Attending a protest for abortion rights is an excellent way to demonstrate the overwhelming popularity of abortion access. Protests keep abortion rights in the news. They help to destigmatize abortion. They educate attendees.
But perhaps the main function of protests is to galvanize protesters and activists to do more. Protests help future activists decide to take on leadership roles, sign up to volunteer, find a community in which their activism is sustainable. A protest should be just the beginning.