Outside Supreme Court, A Call for Reproductive Justice


Read more of our coverage on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases here.

As the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard the arguments of attorneys on either side of two cases that will determine if the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be permitted to stand as currently constructed, advocates for and against rallied in front of the Court.

On one side of the vast plaza in front of the Court building, anti-choice forces massed, some bearing signs featuring photographs of bloody fetuses, and insisting that birth control and abortion are the same thing. Dominating the protest visuals of the pro-Hobby Lobby crowd were the red sashes of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), the far-right Catholic group whose founder has called the Spanish Inquisition, during which accused heretics were tortured to death, “a glorious moment” for the church.

On the other, some 40 progressive groups came together in coalition to support the contraception benefit, the dominant color being the pink stocking caps and t-shirts of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which co-sponsored the rally together with the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Snow fell throughout the morning, soaking the rally-goers, who remained undaunted and energetic. Signs on the reproductive justice side of the plaza offered an array of messages:

“If Men Could Get Pregnant, Birth Control Would Be From Gumball Machines and Bacon-Flavored”

“Keep Your Hobbies Off My Ovaries”

“Bigotry Disguised as Religious Liberty Is Still Bigotry”

On the side of the plaza where the Hobby Lobby supporters gathered, the TFP contingent unfurled a banner that read, “God’s Law Comes First. Repeal Socialist Obamacare!” A man on the sidewalk in front of them propped up a homemade poster emblazoned with a swastika, a photo of President Barack Obama wearing a crown, the words “Tyranny” and “You Will Pay,” together with a photo of a bloody fetus in one corner.

At the progressive rally, dubbed “Not My Boss’s Business,” Kimberly Inez McGuire, director of public affairs for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), and Carol McDonald, director of strategic partnerships for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, led the crowd in spirited chants, such as: “Let it snow, we won’t go! Bosses in the bedroom got to go!” and “What do we want? Birth control! When do we want it? Always!” McGuire also led chants in Spanish, and McDonald emceed the rally.

Organizers read a statement they said was from an employee of Hobby Lobby who wished to remain anonymous, fearing for her job. “We are a single-income family and if I were to lose my job over something like this we would probably be on the streets,” the statement reads. The writer explained:

Birth control coverage should be important for everyone, not just women. … without birth control, I could have been pregnant a lot sooner than I would have liked … This is a very significant thing in my opinion and I think it should be readily available for any woman that wants to take responsibility of her life.

McDonald told a bit of her own story, explaining that she was born to a teen mother. “And the one lesson that I heard over and over, when I was a teenager and I was comin’ up, was, ‘Wait until you’re ready to have your children,’” McDonald said. “And I waited until I was 37. And that decision—for me to wait until I was ready? That helped me to break the cycle of poverty in my family.”

Jamila Perritt, medical director at the Planned Parenthood affiliate of Metropolitan D.C., told the story of one of her patients, a single mother with a full-time job who was attending school at night. Her patient was “trying to do the right thing,” Perritt said, by coming to the clinic for birth control. “But upon hearing of the cost of the only method that was medically safe for her, she burst into tears,” Perritt said. “She could not afford it. There was no way—not with everything else on her plate.”

As anti-choice protesters caught sight of Perritt in her white doctor’s coat on the podium, they moved in behind her, hoisting giant, gruesome posters of a bloody fetus, and remained after she left the microphone. McDonald urged the crowd to ignore them, as rally-goers attempted to raise their own signs and banners to block out the
intruders.

Also represented among the speakers at the progressive rally were officials from the labor movement and LGBT organizations, including Hector Sanchez, chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and executive director of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director of the Human Rights Campaign; and Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“Today we come together to push back the latest desperate effort by extremists to control our freedom, to control our bodies, and our health-care choices,” Nipper told the cheering crowd. “The fanatical right is always wrong. In this instance, they’re stooping even lower than usual. They’re cynically using religion and people of faith to justify their almost rabid hatred of women, Obamacare and, ultimately, real freedom.”

Dorothy Roberts, professor of law and sociology at University of Pennsylvania and board chair of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, spoke to the disproportionate impact of barriers to birth control aspect of women of color and others. “We found that when access to health care is denied, it’s the most marginalized women in this country and around the world who suffer the most—women of color, poor and low-wage workers, lesbian and trans women, women with disabilities,” said Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty. “And this case has far-reaching consequences for their equal rights. Birth control is good health care, period.”

Testimonials were offered, as well, by several college students, doctors and nurses, and religious leaders. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) stepped up for a minute to state her appreciation for the creative messaging of the rally-goers’ signs, and to promise to “continue this fight until it’s won.”

“[W]e are the 99 percent, we are intersectional,” McDonald told the crowd. “This is what democracy looks like.”

All pictures used in the slideshow below were taken by Adele M. Stan. Hover over any picture to see its caption:

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  • KingMeIam

    There should probably be buffer zone for all the protesters.

    • Arekushieru

      There’s a DIFFERENCE between protesters who want to violate someone’s rights and THESE protesters. Hmm, I WONDER what that could BE? Maybe the fact that Hobby Lobby is EXACTLY the same as the protesters you find outside of abortion clinics, who, unlike these people and without the very REASON to be violent, actually DO become violent and verbally abusive ON A REGULAR BASIS.

    • Dez

      Why? Pro-choice protestors peacefully demonstrate. “Pro-life” demonstrators harass, stalk, and kill doctors, nurses, and women involved in abortion. It’s clear that people need to be protected from “pro-life” protestors. History has shown they will use violence to push their agenda.

    • BJ Survivor

      You should really just shut up. It’s far better to be silent and thought of as a dumbfuck than to open one’s mouth/keyboard and remove all doubt.

  • red_zone

    Unless Hobby Lobby is willing to register itself as a church, neither they nor ANY business entity have the right or business dictating what medical related services their employees get. they would not tolerate being subject to Islam’s Sharia Law. Why should this country be subjected to their interpretation?

  • HeilMary1

    The fascist TFP terrorists want to set up Magdalene laundry prison camps for all contraceptive users.

    • P. McCoy

      Don’t let them get away with it. Support those who support women’s rights and I think that since these obdurate religious fanatics are so quick to be advocates for discrimination, they have got to be challenged and charged as political organizations who should be taxed and monitored as hate organizations. There has got to begin to be an enacting of laws that begin to circumscribe the rights of these political organizations posing as religious groups. If we do not, we are going to have what is going on in Russia, where feminists and Gays are beaten to the threat of serious life threatening attacks, and Blacks and other ‘undesirable’ non Whites are threatened with a return to Jim Crow racism, justified on the basis of the existence of these people offending someones religious beliefs. We will have civil war, anarchy as well as a drive towards a theocratic totalitarian state.

  • P. McCoy

    When confronted with pictures of ” bloody fetuses”, pro choice people need to calmly state that all surgical procedures are gruesome to the non medically oriented person. For those who work in the health care industry as back office personnel, nurses, and physicians as well as surgeons, medical procedures are non issues. As for me, I am more concerned about the bodies of women than I am with non human fetuses, zygotes, embryos, or fertilized eggs, all of which are involved in a parasitic relationship with a woman that is what essentially pregnancy is.

    • red_zone

      Most of those pictures would be grossly inaccurate, anyway. A fetus at three months is NOT going to be as developed as suggested and those pictures are mostly of late-term abortions, which were most likely medically necessary for the health of the woman or the fetus itself was not going to survive outside the womb.

      There are some real stories behind those pictures. I can’t help but wonder what the story behind them is and if the women directly involved know about them. How would they feel about their personal pain being used as propaganda?

      • Shan

        Why would they even HAVE fetus-porn posters at a hearing about contraception? Talk about crazy!

        • L-dan

          Hmm, curious isn’t it?

          It’s almost like the anti-abortion crowd is *also* anti-contraception. Huh. They’re not even trying to cloak it anymore.

          Forced-birthers is ever more accurate a description.

          • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

            The most accurate description has always been anti women. Or maybe women haters.

          • HeilMary1

            And forced obstetric incontinence bullies, never mind that these are the same bigots who whine about FGM among Muslims.

          • Arekushieru

            Well, I oppose FGM, but the thing that REALLY gets me about these bigots is that they complain about Sharia law then impose it on women in WESTERN countries, themselves. They ARE misogynistic hypocrites.

          • HeilMary1

            Exactly!

        • VeggieTart

          Well, yeah, they are crazy. And seriously ill-informed because they don’t know the difference between contraception and abortion. Their concern is for the fertilized egg, the embryo, and the fetus–but not the woman or the eventual baby.

      • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

        Medically necessary, red_zone? You keep forgetting that to a genuine “pro lifer”, like Joseph Walsh, there is no such thing as a medically necessary abortion, since the advances in medicine has made those obsolete. Even if gynecologists and obstetricians say differently, he knows better, since they are only doctors and he is a GOPer. And even if he should be wrong, what does mothers health really mean? After all a foetus is always more important. “Pro life” does not apply to women. Women are not life, they are incubators only.
        (In case I was not clear enough, this was sarcasm… there might be a “pro lifer” reading this, and I made this addition for their understanding of my post)

        • red_zone

          Yeah, at first I was like, “WTF?!’ then I was ‘okay, whew!’

          • http://batman-news.com Mummel18000

            Haha…

    • HeilMary1

      Pro-choicers need to display photos, drawings and descriptions of grisly childbirth injuries. That’ll stun some looksist fetal idolaters, especially the looks-conscious teens.

      • P. McCoy

        Hard core woman haters are indifferent to pictures like that, but if we could someday have pictures of them in solitary confinement behind bars for decades long prison sentences, if we had pictures of the IRS, arresting their politico – religious leaders as well as confiscating their properties, if we had pictures of them being arrested as Domestic Terrorists and family members who were not involved, ie;children being taken from them, as we would do to any convicted terrorist, and given to others as wards of the state, then they just might pay attention. We are at war, you see, with a treacherous and implacable enemy-with such an enemy, you must crush them, annihilate them completely, show. NO MERCY and ask for none.

  • Jld33

    I cannot for the life of me understand why “pro life” people are against birth control. 100,000 doctors can explain that the pill and the morning after pill are not abortion causing and it’s like they are talking to a wall. Birth control *prevents* abortions!

    • HeilMary1

      Judy Brown of American Life League calls contraception “baby pesticides.”

      • P. McCoy

        Judy Brown is a cult controlled Catholic. Her opinions have as much validity as ones given out by a member of Peoples Temple. Try to get with groups that advocate culling the pernicious influence that religious fanatics have on the political body in the United States.

    • colleen2

      They are opposed to effective contraception because they believe that women should fulfill our Biblical roles and effective contraception leaves us time for an actual life. When the men of the religious right talk about ‘Biblical roles’ what they are actually talking about is reducing the social and legal status of women to that of chattel. The fact that they are succeeding to some extent really should be acknowledged. My contempt for these men and their sadistic ‘faiths’ could not be greater.

  • VeggieTart

    Will someone please tell these dodos that in a secular country, God’s law does not apply at all, much less come first? I’m referring to a picture on the tumblr. And even if it did, I’m pretty sure Jesus would make sure everyone had healthcare.

  • Suba gunawardana

    It’s high time for the “Keep Religion out of Healthcare” Act.