More than 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the White House on Saturday, with hundreds risking arrest by sitting at the building’s gates, as they urged President Joe Biden to take more action to protect abortion rights at the federal level.
Despite rainy weather and the threat of flash flooding in the area, the protesters sat on the wet concrete, wearing green bandanas that read “bans off our bodies” and chanting, “Disobey!” and, “My body, my choice!”
Demonstrators lined up along the gate, spanning the length of the White House. Some tied their bandanas to the gate, while several others tied themselves to it. Beau Loges, a transgender man from Vienna, Virginia, was one of them. He said he was raped as a child and was given abortion pills at age 11. Now 20, 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.
The protest came one day after Biden issued an executive order intended to ensure access to abortion medication and emergency contraception. But the order fell short of the demands of 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. And the event Saturday reflected activists’ growing frustration.
“You have the power to declare a public health emergency on abortion, codify reproductive rights through executive action and expand the court,” Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, which organized the protest, said in a statement to the White House. “Be our champion and use that power.”
Xavier Becerra, 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, 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.