Four thousand march in New Orleans against abortion ban
New Orleans, LA – On June 24 New Orleanians learned with the rest of the country that the Republican-dominated Supreme Court released its decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. This put into effect Louisiana’s trigger law, which bans all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. This trigger law was signed in 2006 by Democrat Governor Kathleen Blanco, and it was updated on June 21 by Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards.
Louisianans woke that Friday with the federally protected right to control their reproductive health, but had that right taken from them later that day in one fell swoop. The public outrage was as immediate as the trigger laws themselves.
A coalition of activists and community organizations united around a set of local demands after the leaked draft decision in May. In the weeks before the final decision was released, they worked tirelessly to prepare the city for an organized political response to the Supreme Court’s impending attack. They called for a united march from the Federal Fifth Circuit of Appeals Courthouse to New Orleans City Hall on the day of the decision.
“We are marching to connect our local struggle to democratically control our destiny, to the fight to defend the right to abortion across the country,” said Serena Borne, a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization and a march organizer.
The demands of the coalition consist of public commitments from local politicians to establish sanctuary protections for patients who are seeking or who have received an abortion. This would include a policy of non-cooperation between local police and elected officials. There are 42 elected district attorneys who can decide to not cooperate with the Louisiana State Police. The Louisiana State Police already stated they will enforce the abortion law.
After protest organizers asked politicians to sign a letter promising not to not enforce the abortion ban, New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams spoke, “My office will not criminalize women for making decisions about their bodies.”
City councilors also reacted to public pressure with statements that they will not uphold the anti-abortion laws. Protest leaders will continue to ask politicians and elected officials to sign pledges and letters supporting abortion and reproductive rights.
“This is a terrible day for Louisiana. All throughout our state people are already protesting this attack on their bodily autonomy,” said Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom activist Jessica Frankel.
The crowd, which numbered around 4000 people, defiantly took the streets during rush hour. Their chants, such as “Abortion is healthcare” echoed throughout the downtown New Orleans.
Speakers represented many communities including the immigrant rights organization Union Migrante. Organized service industry workers connected the exploitation that they face on the job to the conservative attempt to control working women’s bodies.
“This will most heavily impact Black, brown and poor families who cannot afford to get around these laws the way that wealthy families can. When you take away people’s access to abortion, then they are more easily exploited and discriminated against by the rich people who run this state,” said a spokesperson for the Southern Workers Assembly.
Toni Jones with New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police told the crowd, “This is another example of why we need community control of police in New Orleans. The people of New Orleans support the right to an abortion, and they should be able to deny the Louisiana State Police the ability come in and criminalize people for seeking healthcare. Louisiana State Police is the biggest criminal group in the state, with many cases of racist murders and assaults, so let’s keep them out!”
After a fiery rally on the steps of New Orleans City Hall, protesters taped their demands to the doors of the building. They also left hundreds of signs on the doors, where city politicians could not ignore them. The coalition that united to hold the event promised to continue the campaign, to hold the people in power accountable to the pro-choice will of the overwhelming majority.