News & Politics

Devastation, Joy, and Fury: Reactions From the Supreme Court

"People are going to die and that blood is on the hands of this court."

The scene outside the Supreme Court Friday morning. Photo by Evy Mages

Protesters on both sides of the abortion debate had begun to gather at the Supreme Court Friday morning, even before the justices handed down their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Once the ruling — which strikes down Roe v. Wade and eliminates the constitutional right to an abortion—was announced, the crowd quickly grew. Here, people on the ground share how they’re feeling and what drew them to the court on this historic day.

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Jamal Johnson, 42
DC resident

“I’m very angry and very upset, so I just had to get out here. You know, when I was in college, I had a situation where a girlfriend of mine got pregnant. We went to an historically black college—Morehouse—and we didn’t want to drop out of college because of that. We were nowhere near ready. And now look at her today: she’s a corporate attorney, she makes crazy money, she’s married, and she has three beautiful children. I also have three daughters, so I feel like this is really important to me. I just think it’s a woman’s right to choose.”

Photo by Sophia Young.

Koyuki Chen, 45
Psychology professor

“I am outraged. Outraged that the Supreme Court, filled with Christian fascists, has now ruled on half of humanity, taking away women’s, girls’, and birthing people’s self determination. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about going back 50 years, we’re talking about going back hundreds of years. We are talking about ideas that are based around women being lesser than men. What we’re calling for right now is one message which is legal abortion nationwide. We must demand that women be treated as full human beings, and the only way that can be is if they have access to reproductive health.

“I am with Rise Up for Abortion Rights. I have been here two weeks. Every decision day, I have been out here in front of the Supreme Court waiting for this decision and calling on people to stop this decision because we believed that with millions of people in the street we could have stopped it.”


Photo by Sophia Young.

Bailee Brown, 22
Student at Oklahoma Baptist University

“I am ecstatic about the decision. I’m in shock, this is so surreal. This is an amazing day for women everywhere. For 50 years now, society has told women that you cannot be successful and be a mother. God forbid you get pregnant. It’s either motherhood or a career. That is not the narrative and not the truth, and that’s what the pro-life generation wants people to know. We want to empower and equip women to be successful as a mother and in their education and in their career. I’m just so blessed to be part of a movement that truly wants to empower and equip women.”

Photo by David Andrews.

Sheila Carr, “over 65”
Grandmother, activist, and teacher

“Voting rights is everything. We need to get the John Lewis [voting rights] bill off of [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s desk. That’s where it is, stuck in the Senate on his desk. Then we can control the Supreme Court. We can raise the amount of judges in the Supreme Court and bring some balance back to the court. We don’t have to sway it one way or another, balance is what needs to be happening.”

Photo by Sophia Young.

Lydia Taylor, 19
Member of Students for Life and student at Campbell University

“This is the best day of my life because Roe v. Wade was just overturned. I was crying tears of joy because there is finally hope for all the women and children who have been hurt and killed by abortion in our country since 1973. We still have work to do, but it is so incredible that we are finally acknowledging the value of human life beginning at conception.”

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Melanie Salazar, 23
Missionary from Texas

“I was overcome with joy and disbelief. I had cried because of how happy I am. This is an amazing time to be alive and an even better time to be pro-life. To know that life will be protected from conception in many states that have trigger laws. I’m from Texas, so we have the human life protection act that’s going to now take effect 30 days after today to protect life from conception. We also have the Alternatives to Abortion program … to help new parents that do not choose abortion [with] things like adoption agencies, pregnancy resource centers, parenting classes, etc. So I’m looking forward to the expansion of those programs so that we can have systems in place to not only protect life from conception, but help those new parents.”

Photo by David Andrews.

Leana Stormont, 47

(She and Mike Hardy’s family, pictured below, were in conversation when Washingtonian met them.) “I was curious to speak to them because of their pro-life position. I was raped as a child, so I really want to hear from the pro-life community, or the anti-choice community, that my life mattered too … when my multiple doctors told me that my life was at risk because I was so young, that my choices were to have an abortion or die. And I want the community that opposed abortion, in any and every circumstance, to really evaluate people like me who will now die, who will now go back to a time when abortion is neither safe nor legal but will continue.”

Photo by David Andrews.

Mike Hardy, 56
Product manager from New Jersey

“My wife and I have nine kids, so we’re definitely a pro-life, Catholic family. My mother-in-law has 67 grandkids. We’re a big, huge Catholic family. She’s been praying for years, we’ve all been praying for years. It’s a joyful day.”

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Beliz Bayulgen, 21
Student from Norwalk, Connecticut

“As a survivor of sexual assault, after you go through that, you feel like your body is not your own. You feel like you’re living in what somebody else did to you, and women all across the country are feeling that right now toward the Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court telling women all across the country that their bodies are not their own. … We are angry, but we aren’t we aren’t defeated. We’re going to show solidarity through this. We’re gonna show that we do not accept this as legitimate.”

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Kate Hoeting, 25
Writer and managing editor at Catholics for Choice, DC

“It’s been pretty clear for years now that we could expect Roe to be overturned, but it is still really gut wrenching, because so many people will be impacted by this and people are going to die and that blood is on the hands of this court. It’s on the hands of the bishops; it’s on the hands of the ultra-conservative right wing Catholics who have bankrolled this movement. You know, we (Catholics for Choice) support the right to abortion because of our faith, not in spite of our faith. We look at our Catholic social justice values, we look at the long history of the church not really opposing abortion at all. The ban on abortion was only codified in Catholic law in 1917. So, we as Catholics and people of faith feel that access to the full spectrum of reproductive health is an important part of social justice.”

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Kendra Simmons, 35

“I took my bike down here just to see what was going on and it’s crazy. Personally, I don’t have a feeling about abortion either way. I feel like that’s a personal choice for the individual, because we don’t know what circumstances would cause someone to make this decision.  A woman could get raped, she could be in an unhealthy relationship—it could be a number of things. I just find it very strange that we have so many laws against a woman’s body, telling us what we can and can’t do with our reproductive organs. I don’t understand how that right there is even constitutional. There are no laws on the books about men telling them that they can’t do this or they can’t do that. It’s just something that should be a personal choice.”

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Christie Hamm, 55
Librarian from Sacramento

“I’m currently here for a conference, so I was being a tourist today and walking around the Washington Monument. I had a feeling this was gonna happen today, so I did want to be close. I honestly can’t believe that it has come to this.  I mean, I’ve had an abortion. I’ve fought for the right of everybody to make those choices for themselves. And the hypocrisy of the decision … I just don’t understand. So we have the ultimate personal freedom to carry a handgun, but we cannot have freedom to make choices about our own bodies? The fact that those things can exist simultaneously tells me everything I know about how fraught we are as a country right now.”

Photo by Jessica Ruf.

Amy Pool, 50
DC resident

“I just feel really angry, and I think it’s really disgusting that there are people here celebrating. This isn’t a victory for either side. I think the Supreme Court justices that disguise themselves as originalists, and potential constitutionalists, are actually opportunists. This is not about interpreting the Constitution. This is about using this as an opportunity to further an agenda, a personal agenda, which has no place within the judiciary.”

Photo by David Andrews.

Elizabeth White
Civil rights lawyer

“It’s devastating. It’s going to disproportionately affect Black and brown people, we know that. It will disproportionately affect trans people, we know that. It’s men attempting to dominate women as they always have throughout history. This has nothing to do with them caring about a life. We know how they value life. We know how they value childcare, maternity leave, paternity leave, investing into education, the foster system, they don’t give a fuck about people. The states that are making it a felony for you to have an abortion are the same ones that keep the death penalty. It doesn’t make sense. It’s about dominating women.”

Photo by David Andrews.

Jahan Wilcox, 38
Public affairs consultant

“Very excited we got six Supreme Court justices on the bench. It’s a great day for America. We’re very happy that President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch. It was the right decision by Mitch McConnell to keep the seat open.”

Photo by David Andrews.

Joseph Little, 32

“The Bible talks about that we have to correct oppression, and so ‘forced birth is enslavement’ means exactly that. When you take away the rights of people, and you tell them that their choice no longer matters in this country, that it’s supposed to be the land of the free, you are oppressing people. The majority of people are on the side of abortion rights. And the courts today decided against the majority in this country.

“This sign is a reminder. And it also happens to have a Black body in back of it. Because I know what it is like to be oppressed in this country. And I don’t want anyone to ever have to feel that oppression, that fear that comes with it.”

*Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.
**This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Kate Hoeting’s name.

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor
Sophia Young
Editorial Fellow
Editorial Fellow