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Demonstrators gathered to protest for reproductive rights at the Women's March


Yesterday, demonstrators gathered in hundreds of cities to protest Texas's restrictive abortion law. The organization Women's March and an array of other groups held rallies for abortion justice marches, and one of them was in downtown Washington, D.C. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben was there, and she's here to tell us what happened. Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: You covered a lot of protests and a few women's marches during the Trump years. Was there anything that made this one unique?

KURTZLEBEN: Absolutely. And to just explain what it was, there was a rally in downtown D.C. at a place called Freedom Plaza and then a march to the Supreme Court after that. And this was all focused on one issue area, abortion, as opposed to those women's marches which were inspired by Donald Trump and his party and their policies. So this was very focused. And it's important to really drill down on that, I think, because a big theme of this rally was about being unapologetic about fighting for abortion rights. A point that they tried to make to the crowd was do not feel shame or discomfort about this topic. Please talk about it more. And also, I should add that because this was all in response to a policy, that Texas policy, there was a feeling of just an intensely furious reaction to that, in addition, an acknowledgement that the Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade with an upcoming case. So as one woman put it to me, they have just poked a bear, she said. And she added that the bear is big and angry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, big and angry. Was that the mood?

KURTZLEBEN: No, not exactly. That's the thing. I asked a lot of people, how are you feeling? Good, bad, scared? And I got a lot of optimism. One person was Lisa Williams from Alexandria, Va., and I asked her how she was feeling as we walked towards the Supreme Court. And here's what she said.

LISA WILLIAMS: This is optimism. You know, when I came out today, I was hoping to see more than just a handful of people. There's a ton of people here today, and I understand that they're happening - these rallies are happening all over the country. We all have to take care of the women in Texas and take care of each other.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, of course, a big function of protests is to foster that feeling and that feeling of solidarity. And now the question is, OK, where do people put that energy, and what might it do?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, what more do abortion advocates have planned with that energy?

KURTZLEBEN: That's a great question. I asked a lot of abortion rights advocates that this week, and some of what they're up to is just immediate support for women and abortion patients in Texas - so giving money to abortion funds, helping patients there go out of state if they so choose. Also, abortion rights advocates are just playing defense. They're trying to prevent new laws in other states from passing, and they're looking ahead to future elections. But one thing I also want to focus on is a rhetorical strategy that there was a lot of yesterday about destigmatizing abortion, about, again, being open if you have had one and being unashamed about it. So here is a clip from a speech given by Kenya Martin from the National Network of Abortion Funds.


KENYA MARTIN: And it's OK to have abortions after some hot sex simply because you don't want to be pregnant. I just didn't want to be pregnant, and I want you to know that if that's your experience, that's OK, too. Your story deserves to be heard.

KURTZLEBEN: So the rhetoric has gone a long way from that safe, legal and rare refrain that became popular in the '90s...


KURTZLEBEN: Yes, absolutely. And this is part of the political strategy that abortion rights advocates are using. A common sign at the march was, someone I love has had an abortion. That's what it said. And the idea is to say, look. Abortion is a common health care procedure, and you probably know someone who had it. So that is one thing they're trying to push.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this, Danielle. You know, you're saying there that the rhetoric of the abortion rights movement has changed. And we heard it. But is the movement as a whole changing with it?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes. And, I mean, you could really say that the feminist movement in general, I suppose, more pointedly, white and cisgender feminists, have grown more thoughtful about diversity and more consciously intersectional. And race came up a lot yesterday. Here's Yabsera Faris from Atlanta, Ga. She's with a group called Black Feminist Future.

YABSERA FARIS: We're talking about, like, anti-Blackness as a whole, and so you could see, like, a clear connection between police killings and murders with people not having autonomy over their body.

KURTZLEBEN: And so if you're talking about how abortion affects different groups of people, then you're also saying it intersects with different issue areas, which, again, is a big part of the politics of this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you so much.

KURTZLEBEN: Of course. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.

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