Photography by Kristina Shakht

The protestors fighting for abortion rights in New York City

As the US Supreme Court attempts to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Kristina Shakht photographs those taking to the streets in protest.

by i-D Staff; photos by Kristina Shakht
|
05 May 2022, 6:26pm

Photography by Kristina Shakht

On the first Monday in May, as our feeds were filling up with photos of celebrities in their best gilded glamour, news broke that the US Supreme Court was likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark court decision that protects abortion rights. Rallying cries were juxtaposed with flashes of sequins, in a way that felt both dystopian and perfectly aligned with what it has felt like living in America, where politics have become increasingly polarised over the last decade. In the last few years alone, the right to bodily autonomy has been at the heart of debates over the Covid-19 vaccine, yet this same freedom of choice is continuously called into question when it comes to women’s bodies.

The initial draft opinion obtained by POLITICO, “is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights”, in which Justice Samuel Alito writes that “it is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Though the court’s ruling will not be final until it’s published — and overturning Roe v. Wade will not ban abortions across the US, but leave it to individual states to determine the procedure’s legality — Republican politicians have attacked abortion rights for years. Thirteen states have already enacted trigger laws that would “ban abortions almost immediately” should the decision be overturned, while left-leaning states have made moves to reinforce reproductive rights.

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In response to the news, thousands of protestors gathered in New York City’s Foley Square on Tuesday night to oppose the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Folks gathered in green, the color synonymous with the campaign for safe and legal abortions, as they marched to Washington Square holding signs that read “Abortions are healthcare”, “Abort the court”, “Misogyny kills more people than abortion” and, maybe most importantly, “You can’t ban abortion, you can only ban safe abortions”.

As Lindy West put it on The Daily Show in a now-viral speech, “Anti-choice people are not trying to stop abortion. They are trying to legislate who can and cannot have abortions… All criminalizing abortion will do is keep people trapped in poverty for generations. That’s the goal, and if it wasn’t the goal they would spend their time and money on comprehensive sex education, free birth control and free contraception.”

We went down to the protest to meet those in attendance, get a sense of why they felt compelled to take to the streets and find out what keeps them optimistic.

a protestor in new york holding a sign that reads abort the supreme court

Tatiana

What do you do and why did you come here today?
I’m a community organizer, so I feel like I have to be on the street when things are happening that affect people like me. I’m a woman. I’m a person who’s impacted by reproductive rights, so I need to advocate for others who don’t have a voice in this movement.

What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
I don’t think the Supreme Court should exist. It exemplifies a capitalist, racist system. It doesn’t serve the people, it serves entities and it keeps capitalism going. The Supreme Court is well aware of the power they hold over people and they’re keeping the status quo. I want to dismantle it, but in the way things exist currently, they need to codify Roe v. Wade. The fact that we’re out here right now is ridiculous, it’s heart-wrenching, it’s utterly disgusting.

Are you worried about the impact this will have on LGBTQ+ people and marginalized communities elsewhere?
Always, this is setting a trend. Even if this doesn’t affect us here other things will. Anything that’s put forth in legislation that has a negative impact always affects Black and Brown communities the most, the fastest and the harshest. This will set a trend for other types of legislation to be rolled back as well. We still need to make more changes, but we’re going backwards.

What makes you feel hopeful?
I’m hopeful for everyone to rise up and fight. Talk about it, call your legislatures, post, tweet about it.

a group of abortion rights protestors standing in foley square
protestors at the roe v wade organization in new york city

Priscilla

What do you do?
I work retail and I spent time organizing in Arizona with Tenants Unions.

Why did you come here today?
Because ‘abortion rights’ is an everybody problem. When we don’t have access to it and healthcare that can benefit us and sustain our humanity, we will fall. We will collapse as a society. The biggest motive to implementing these restrictive laws against any AFAB person is detrimental, and to control our bodies — to constantly have an input of cheap and free labor. We are moving to a point where we will not stand for it anymore.

What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
You guys are infallible, you will not longer stand. We cannot be legislated by only nine people that determine whether or not humanity will survive for another hundred years.

What makes you hopeful?
The amount of people here. People are waking up and realizing that abortion rights are not just about whether or not we have freedom to choose, but it is about our bodily autonomy, our protection and our privacy. When we have legality in the way of what we do with our bodies that risks more people being put into prison and incarceration will be further funded. All of these are connected. It’s bigger than having the right to choose. People see this now and are ready to fight back.

a protestor in nyc holding a sign that reads get your fucking hands off our bodies

Dariya

What do you do?
I’m a junior at Barnard College

Why are you here today?
I’m here because this country is choosing to do violence onto women and female bodies. I’m not surprised by this, of course, but it’s atrocious at this point. People are choosing to completely dehumanize us and see us as political tokens to play games with… we’re here to protect our bodies and the bodies of people who are less privileged than us, who are marginalized, and we’re angry.

**What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
**This feels very violating to me and intrusive, so I guess at the end of the day a big ‘Fuck You’, and look at all of these people — nobody fucking wants this.

What makes you feel hopeful?
All of the people here. All of the people that I go to school with. Right now, we’re in this very polarising time, but I hope it’s also a very galvanizing time. It’s very hard to keep your head down, keep your eyes closed. I hope this leads to action.

abortion rights protestors in new york's foley square
a boy standing in foley square at new york's abortion rights protests

Nasim

What do you do and what brings you here today?
I’m a cook and food creator on Instagram. I’m here to support the women in my life who made me the person I am today. I also understand that Roe v. Wade being overturned is just the beginning of other laws and rights that Americans rely on also being overturned.

**What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
**I think they should be ashamed of themselves. A majority of Americans support abortion, and regardless of whether this is overturned, abortions will still happen. It’s their choice whether it’s safe or not, and accessible to those who need it. There’s no reason why a body of nine people should determine what happens to the bodies of millions of people with uteruses.

**What makes you hopeful?
**I’m hopeful for future generations. There’s been a lot of talk about how politicians are terrified of Gen Z.

a sign that says it's giving misogyny
an abortion rights protestor holding a sign in a spiderman suit

Akmaral

What do you do and why are you here today?
I’m a college student and I’m here because my rights are being violated.

**What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
**A bunch of old, white men that are never going to be in the position where they need an abortion should not be deciding who can have an abortion.

**What makes you feel hopeful?
**The amount of people here today.

a protestor holding a sign that reads abolish the supreme court

Jonas

**What do you do and why are you here today?
**I sew and make clothes. I’m here because I’m very angry about what’s going on with reproductive rights. I’m here to show out and see what we can do.

**What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
**I think we should abolish the Supreme Court. I think it’s insane that nine people that are not democratically elected can make decisions for the whole 300 million of us. Trump finessed three appointments and that’s a big part of this. So, fuck the Supreme Court, that’s that.

**What makes you feel hopeful?
**Stuff like this, but I think we could also take it a step further. The Republicans are out here storming the capital and they laugh in the faces of our Instagram posts, our chants, but I think it’s important to come together and show solidarity. We need to hold the Democrats accountable. We’ve had 50 years to codify Roe and they haven’t done it.

a protestor holding a sign that says can't stop the wap
two abortion rights protestors sitting on a bench in foley square

Nora & Olivia

What do you do and why are you here today?
N: I’m a cosmetologist/makeup artist and I’m fighting for reproductive rights for all humans — not just women.

O: I’m also a makeup artist and I’m fighting for abortion rights and all people’s rights.

**What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
**N&O: Fuck you, take your hands off my uterus.

What makes you feel hopeful?
N: The community and the people coming together, especially with how quickly everything came together. This event was organized in less than two days. I believe in the people.

O: Seeing everybody from al different backgrounds coming to support this. It’s more than a women’s rights issue; it’s a class issue. Everybody here gives me a lot of hope.

a protestor in an adidas hoodie standing in new york's foley square

Eric

What do you do and why are you here today?
I’m a writer and a comedian and I’m here to support reproductive rights. It’s an essential part of any democracy and just common sense. Everyone needs access to safe abortions.

**What do you have to say to the Supreme Court?
**I hate the draft. I hate that they want to get rid of Roe v. Wade. I hope it stays and gets codified into the laws of the land.

What makes you feel hopeful?
Seeing all of these people here feeling the same way as me. This is democracy in action.

a dog wearing a shirt that says you deserve to feel safe
a sea of protestors in new york and a sign that reads bans off my body
a mom and her daughter at the abortion rights protest in new york city
a mom and her daughter at the abortion rights protest in new york city
a protestor in new york holding a sign that reads vote your life depends on it
a sea of protestors in new york holding signs
new york's foley square filled with protestors

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abortion
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