Hundreds of people gathered at the Utah State Capitol on May 5 to protest the potential threat to abortion rights after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court draft decision was leaked earlier this week.
The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was first published by Politico on May 2. The content of the draft has the ability to overturn the federal constitutional rights to abortion held by Roe v. Wade if it gets officially published by the Supreme Court. The authenticity of the leaked draft was confirmed by Chief Justice John Roberts on May 3.
An overturn of Roe v. Wade would have major implications for Utah’s future. The state is one of 13 that have enacted “trigger laws” that can almost immediately ban most abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Utah’s trigger law passed in 2020 and states life begins at embryonic implantation. This will make it illegal for women to have abortions except in cases of rape, incest or a health emergency that threatens the life of the mother.
“There’s 13 states that haven’t ratified women’s rights, and we have an issue because Utah is one of those states,” protester Erin Pitt said. “We need to protect ourselves in order to protect future generations.”
Protestors chanted “When they say no choice, we say pro-choice,” on the steps of the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City.
Several protesters held signs at the rally with phrases such as “choice is a human right,” “you can only stop safe abortion” and “your body, your choice.” Many supporters of abortion argue that banning safe, legal abortions only forces women to seek out unsafe measures to end pregnancies.
“I’m here to support everyone being able to choose exactly what they want to do with their life,” protester Abby Houghton said. “This is something that personally attacks me and takes away my rights as a human so I want to be here to support, but its also about me and my future.”
Houghton said “it would be chaos” if Roe v. Wade was overturned. “There would be terrible deaths and injuries from people trying to control their lives without the healthcare system backing them up,” she said.
The protest was organized by Red Hive Collective, a Utah-based media platform that covers “local issues, protests and grassroots organizations.” The rally included a dance celebrating Indigenous women, a musical performance and several speakers who shared messages.
“If the Supreme Court justices are already set on their opinions, there is not much we can do except make our voices heard and let them know that we are not going to go down without a fight,” said Magnolia, a 16-year-old girl who spoke at the rally and is a member of the Red Hive Collective. “I would like to believe that I’m genuinely pro-life because I care about all of these issues that happen after a baby is born, unlike the senators and representatives and Supreme Court justices who say they are ‘pro-life’ but only as long as it is a clump of cells in the womb.”
Chief Justice Roberts said the leak of the draft was “absolutely appalling” when he addressed the federal judges on May 5, according to CNN.
Several Utah leaders have also responded to the leak. Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted a joint statement saying although they were optimistic at the possibility of an overturn, “draft rulings are not actual rulings and leaked drafts are a dangerous violation of court protocol and deliberations.”
On Thursday, Lee issued another comment, tweeting “efforts by some now to pressure, pack and delegitimize the Court are shameful, wrong and dangerous.”
The leak has instilled fear and anger in supporters of abortions, who say the decision would be a direct blow to their fundamental rights to choose what they want to do with their bodies.
“We deserve the right to be loud and not quiet and tiny as possible,” protestor Amelia Peterson said. “We get to stand up just as the people making the decisions for our bodies — we get to be as loud as them.”
Katie Elder, another protester, said the rally’s purpose was to send a message to Utah’s leaders.
“It shows something to our senators,” Elder said. “They can see we’re not happy. The more people out here, the more our voice is heard.”
During a performance of Lady Gaga’s “Till it Happens To You”, an empowering song discussing sexual assault, several members of the crowd began hugging. The hug quickly grew from less than 10 people to a large majority of the crowd with several people crying and comforting each other.
“I’ve never experienced something like that before,” Elder said. “Just the pure love and want for a change. It was beautiful.”
Following the speakers and performances, the protesters headed for State Street and marched, cheered and chanted their way down.