Protesters at White House Call on Biden to Protect Abortion Rights
WASHINGTON — One day after President Biden issued an executive order designed to ensure access to abortion medication and emergency contraception, more than a thousand protesters gathered in front of the White House, with hundreds risking arrest by sitting at the building’s gates, to urge Mr. Biden to do more.
Despite rainy weather and the threat of flash flooding in the area on Saturday, the protesters sat on the wet concrete wearing green bandannas that read “bans off our bodies” and chanting “Disobey!” and “My body, my choice!”
Demonstrators lined up along the gate of the White House, spanning the length of the building. Some tied their bandannas to the gate, while several others tied themselves to it. Beau Loges, a transgender man from Vienna, Va., was one of them. He said he was raped as a child and was given abortion pills at age 11. Now 20, Mr. Loges said he did not think he would have finished school if he had not had an abortion. “I’m here for everyone” who cannot get one, he said.
To many activists and progressive lawmakers who had called on the White House to protect abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, Mr. Biden’s order on Friday fell short. And the event on Saturday reflected activists’ growing frustration.
Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March, which organized the protest, said in a statement that Mr. Biden should declare a public health emergency on abortion, codify reproductive rights through executive action and expand the Supreme Court.
Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, has been instructed by the president to identify potential actions that could protect abortion rights and report back within 30 days. He has said that the administration has “no magic bullet” that can restore access.
Although the organizers had warned participants that they might be arrested, they disbanded peacefully by early afternoon. Still, Ms. O’Leary Carmona said the possibility of arrest was a calculated and necessary risk.
“It’s an escalated tactic for an escalated moment,” she said.
Anne Nicieza of Greenville, S.C., and Suzy Schmalbeck of Raleigh, N.C., two longtime friends, said they left at 8 a.m. on Friday and drove 10 hours so they could attend the rally. They wanted to make a difference where their message would be received, Ms. Nicieza, 27, said.
Ms. Schmalbeck, 29, said she had weighed the impact of not attending.
“If I’m not out here, that’s one less body in the street,” she said. “That’s one less person showing up for the cause.”