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New Orleans protesters ready to 'fight like hell' for abortion rights after SCOTUS ruling

Hundreds of protestors took to New Orleans streets on a sweltering Friday evening — joining dozens of cities across the nation that saw demonstrators pour into the streets — after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, striking down the constitutional right to abortion. As of the ruling, virtually all abortion procedures in the state of Louisiana are illegal.

A peaceful but energized crowd gathered at Lafayette Square before marching to City Hall, chanting “abortion is health care” and “you don’t care if people die.”

Protestors called on city officials to make New Orleans a “sanctuary city” for abortions by refusing to enforce laws criminalizing the procedure, a measure other cities have considered in recent days – though most, like Seattle and Los Angeles, are in states that still permit abortions. During an interview on Louisiana Considered Friday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell would not say whether her administration or the district attorney’s office would take action to not enforce the state’s stringent law.

pro-abortion rights march crowd fifth circuit court
Halle Parker
Several hundred protesters crowded around speakers at a pro-abortion rights rally on the day that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, standing outside the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, June 24, 2022.

Speakers at the rally argued that if Roe v. Wade can be overturned, other Supreme Court rulings, including those protecting racial equality or gay marriage, are at risk.

Petrice Sams-Abiodun, vice president of strategic partnerships at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, acknowledged the grief of the moment, and likened it to a halftime break.

“In the second half of this game, we’re going to come back and fight like hell,” she said, to cheers.

Speakers with the New Orleans Abortion Fund were also present at the protest and said their funds can be used to help people seeking abortions travel the hundreds of miles necessary to reach another state that allows the procedure.

New Orleans City Council member Lesli Harris was among the crowd. Earlier in the day, she and Council President Helena Moreno issued a statement urging District Attorney Jason Williams not to prosecute patients or physicians of abortion procedures.

“The law is written so unclearly that people don’t know whether or not they can get birth control, Plan B, if they can get an IUD implanted,” Harris said, of Louisiana’s trigger law. “I know women who are literally scrambling right now to get birth control.”

Under the trigger law that took effect in Louisiana after the court’s decision, abortions would only be allowed for medically futile and ectopic pregnancies — no exceptions for rape or incest. It’s one of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country.

Earlier this morning, the scene was quiet outside the Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans, just a few hours’ past the high court’s decision.

A few anti-abortion protestors gathered there to celebrate.

Christine Harper, who came to the center with other members of her church’s anti-abortion group, said the moment felt “very joyful, very victorious.”

The clinic had been the last location to provide abortions in New Orleans, and it closed down immediately after the Supreme Court decision came down.

An officer from the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office checked the door, apparently to bring some paperwork. It appeared to be locked.

Drivers pulled out of the employee parking lot behind the building, and anti-abortion protestors taunted them as they drove away.

“No more, glory!” Harper cheered.

pro abortion rights protester new orleans
Halle Parker
Some protesters of the Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade wore just bras to promote bodily autonomy at a rally in front of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, June 24, 2022.

Later in the evening, marching toward City Hall in scrubs, an OB-GYN who did not give her name said today’s decision will immediately impact the clients she serves.

“We become OB-GYNs because we want to be able to give comprehensive medical care. And now we can’t,” she said.

Another protestor, who volunteers with the New Orleans Abortion Fund, said she came out to march because she’d had an abortion herself.

“Today I’m just so worried for the women and people who won’t be able to get one,” the protester, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

The only other two clinics in Louisiana — one in Shreveport and the other in Baton Rouge — had also ceased providing the abortion procedure on Friday. In the days leading up to the decision, staff at those clinics said they expected to stop providing abortions because it would become immediately illegal in Louisiana.

Across the country, some states began issuing new abortion restrictions in response to the SCOTUS decision, while abortion-rights groups announced they would look into challenging the trigger laws like Louisiana’s.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.
Alana Schreiber is the managing producer for the live daily news program, Louisiana Considered. She comes to WWNO from KUNC in Northern Colorado, where she worked as a radio producer for the daily news magazine, Colorado Edition. She has previously interned for Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul and The Documentary Group in New York City.