Phoenix joins nationwide 'Bans Off Our Bodies' rally in support of abortion rights

·6 min read

Thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Phoenix Saturday evening as part of a national call to action to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s potential repeal of Roe v. Wade and further erosion of reproductive rights.

Abortion rights activists chanted "bans off our bodies!" in front of the Arizona state Capitol, while holding signs that read "abortion is healthcare," "my body is not a political playground" and "not your body, not your choice." A few dozen counterprotesters who support a repeal of Roe V. Wade were also present.

Arizona activists called for abortion rights advocates to gather as part of the national “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally.

Over 400 rallies nationwide were planned for Saturday in support of the movement, according to Brittany Fonteno, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

The organization, which bills itself as the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood, previously held a rally on May 3 in Phoenix, shortly after Politico obtained and published a copy of the draft opinion which shows Justice Samuel Alito disavowing the landmark 1973 decision that cemented federal protection of abortion rights and the subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which maintained the right.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona host a "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally on the lawn of the state Capitol in Phoenix on May 14, 2022.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona host a "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally on the lawn of the state Capitol in Phoenix on May 14, 2022.

The Supreme Court verified the draft's authenticity on Tuesday but noted the decision wasn't final.

"Abortion is still legal," Fonteno said ahead of the rally. "But this leak really makes it clear that the supreme court is poised to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, and what we know is that this outcome is as dangerous as it is unprecedented."

Speakers at the rally included Sen. Raquel Terán, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, representatives with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, a spokesperson for ACLU of Arizona and patient storytellers.

"I am unapologetically pro-choice. A future without Roe is unthinkable and utterly terrifying," said Hobbs. "A total abortion ban is not representative of our whole state. Our state's elected leaders are now the last line of defense between a total ban on abortion and women's reproductive rights."

Pro-life advocates walked around the rally with blow horns, chanting phrases like "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!" while holding signs that read "pray to end abortion" and "we are the post-Roe generation."

"Taking life is never the answer," said a pro-life couple who requested to be identified as the Glynn family. "To have an abortion isn't just hurting the baby and hurting others, but it's hurting your very self. Women die, women die in hospitals all the time. It's not going to help them, killing their baby."

Teran said that families will suffer and "people will die" from abortion laws.

"Women of color inherit this mess, so we have to rally around them," said Teran. "When the news leaked last week, I was frozen. We all know that the women and families that we work hard to protect and support will suffer at the hands of the Supreme Court and of the Republicans."

"If that leak is true, people will die because of this ruling and that's the harsh reality," Teran said. "We want to make it extremely clear that the majority of Arizonans support the right to have a safe and legal abortion. The majority of Arizonans don't want the government interfering in their relationship with their doctors."

Cat Castaneda, who was in attendance at the rally, said that her friend got pregnant in high school. Because there were no resources available at the time, her friend had to get an abortion with a "back-door provider," where Castaneda said she almost "hemorrhaged to death."

"I'm old enough to remember what it was like before Roe v. Wade. I have friends who suffered from botched abortions back when we were much younger, in the 70s," said Castaneda. "We do not have a legal system we can stand on anymore. I think right now, it's imperative that everybody who can, gets out and votes."

Sophie McAfee, a pro-abortion advocate, said that she and her friends started Young People 4 Human Rights AZ, an organization that promotes nonviolent education in the wake of the Supreme Court's draft opinion.

"I'm actually amazed by the turnout," said McAfee. "This is making my heart so full. I came out especially to fight for my rights — fight for myself, fight for my sisters and fight for everybody that has a uterus because I really believe that we aren't a free country if we don't have that choice."

Preparing to serve needs of community

Fonteno said the overturn could potentially result in completely eliminating or imposing higher restrictions on abortion access in Arizona, which according to her, is already one of the most restrictive states in the U.S. when it comes to abortion.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill in March banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy under nearly every circumstance.

Republican lawmakers passed the bill through the state Legislature without any support from Democrats, who raised concerns the prohibition does not include any exemptions for victims of rape or incest, along with other objections.

The new law provides no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Doctors who perform the procedure after 15 weeks could face a Class 6 felony, the lowest level of felony crime in Arizona, and have their medical licenses suspended.

Senate Democrats attempted to codify Roe v. Wade into law earlier this week but failed 49 to 51 — far short of the 60 votes needed under current Senate rules as Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin D-WV voted no.

Fonteno said she believes the majority of people in Arizona and the United States support Roe and abortion access.

Protesters stand outside the Capitol in Phoenix after the "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally on May 14, 2022.
Protesters stand outside the Capitol in Phoenix after the "Bans Off Our Bodies" rally on May 14, 2022.

"People are seeing that this is a highly unpopular decision and that the Supreme Court would be acting in complete defiance of what the vast majority of Arizonans and Americans want," she said.

Fonteno said the daylong event, that tookplace across the nation, was meant to showcase to the public and government officials how unpopular the turnout would be.

Other organizing groups for the Saturday rallies included Women's March, Service Employees International Union and Ultra Violet, MoveOn, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Event organizers expected over a million people to turn out on streets across the country.

Fonteno said regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, her organization is preparing to be able to respond to the needs of the community, focusing on supporting communities that according to her have been disproportionately affected by abortion bans, including Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, among other minorities.

"We are prepared to continue to serve our patients in our communities. We are prepared to be able to connect our patients to abortion care, whether it is in different states or areas where abortion is still safe and legal," Fonteno said.

Reach breaking news reporter Laura Daniella Sepulveda at  or on Twitter @lauradNews.

Reach the reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or Follow him on Twitter @PerryVandell.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Advocates rally in Phoenix in support of abortion rights