Hundreds of Las Vegas Valley residents marched through downtown on Saturday, joining protests across the country in support of abortion access and reproductive rights.
About 700 people signed up for the demonstration, said Jeri Burton, the president of Nevada’s chapter of the National Organization for Women, which helped organize Las Vegas’ Women’s March on Saturday. Hundreds of people chanting and waving signs gathered at the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse before the march, which stretched for blocks as demonstrators walked the length of the Fremont Street Experience tunnel.
“A lot of people, once they saw what happened in Texas, we started getting phone calls saying, ‘What are we going to do?’” Burton said.
Many of the speakers who addressed the crowd before the march referenced the recent Texas law that has banned most abortions in the state since early September and is considered the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S.
On Friday, the Biden administration urged a federal judge to block the law, which is one of a series of cases that may prompt the Supreme Court to uphold or overrule Roe v. Wade, The Associated Press reported.
The Women’s March has become a regular event since former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Nationwide protests were held Saturday in cities that included Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Albany, New York, the AP reported.
Aiko Smith, 36, held a bright pink sign reading “Abort the Patriarchy.” Smith said she went to the march on Saturday to support women in Texas and other states with restrictions to abortion.
“It’s important that everybody uses their privilege, which is their voice, to speak for women that are being silenced,” Smith said.
Nevada protection ‘locked in’
Nevada Democratic Rep. Dina Titus addressed the crowd prior to the march, emphasizing that Nevada enacted a state law in 1990 that “locked in” Roe v. Wade for the state.
Nevadans in 1990 approved Question 7, which codified a statute allowing abortions within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The move means that if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, Nevada would likely not be affected.
But federally, Titus said the Senate needs to pass a national law that would ensure abortion access across the country.
“We can’t have a Supreme Court that chips away at it and eventually overturns it,” Titus said. “And that eventually is coming sooner rather than later.”
Sy Bernabei, the executive director of Gender Justice Nevada, told the crowd to remember that trans and nonbinary people also have a voice in the reproductive rights movement.
“I identify as a nonbinary, but I also have a uterus,” Bernabei said as the crowd cheered.
Burton said the organizers made a point to invite diverse groups to the march. Other speakers who addressed the crowd spoke about the intersection of abortion access with immigrant rights, racism and healthcare.
As speakers addressed the crowd, a small group of counter-protesters carrying anti-abortion and pro-life signs appeared in front of the courthouse. Many of the Women’s March demonstrators stood near the counter-protesters and blocked their signs, but the march remained peaceful.
‘We need to protect each other’
State Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, was the last speaker to address the crowd before the march began, and she specifically called out the counter-protesters.
“All of those who are around the perimeter, who are trying to drown out our voices, let me ask you this question: if you really care about the child in the womb, then Black lives will matter …” Spearman said, the rest of her speech drowned out by the shouting and cheering crowd.
Starting at noon, the crowd spent an hour walking through downtown Las Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience, chanting phrases such as “Abortion is health care” and “They say no choice, we say pro-choice.”
Madeleine Phillips, 25, carried a sign reading “Don’t tread on me,” referencing the iconic flag with the same saying and a depiction of a snake. The snake on Phillips’ sign was curled into the shape of a uterus.
Phillips said she attended the march to voice her opposition to laws restricting abortions, and to support others in the reproductive rights movement.
“We need to protect each other,” she said.