Demonstrations also took place in Los Angeles, with dozens of smaller rallies from coast to coast.
At least eight right-leaning states imposed immediate bans on abortion -- with a similar number to follow suit in coming weeks -- after the Supreme Court eliminated 50-year-old constitutional protections for the procedure, drawing criticism from some of America’s closest allies around the world.
Missouri was first to ban the procedure on Friday, making no exception for rape or incest, joined as of Saturday morning by at least seven other states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah
Fuelling the mobilisation, many now fear that the Supreme Court, with a clear conservative majority made possible by Donald Trump, might next set its sights on rights like same-sex marriage and contraception.
President Joe Biden -- who has likewise voiced concerns the court might not stop at abortion -- spoke out again Saturday against the “shocking decision.”
Being forced to be a mother is not something any woman should have to do
“I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans,” said the president, who has urged Congress to restore abortion protections as federal law, and vowed the issue would be on the ballot in November’s midterm elections.
Women in states that severely restrict abortion or outlaw it altogether will either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion, obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where it remains legal.
But “most women don’t have the time of day or the financial resources to travel across state lines to get an abortion,” Mikayla Marcum, a 23-year-old originally from Texas, told AFP at the Supreme Court on Saturday.
“We are going to see some nightmare scenarios, sadly,” Biden’s spokeswoman Karine Jean Pierre told reporters on Air Force One, as the president headed to Europe for Group of Seven and NATO summits.
“That is not hypothetical,” she said.
Republican-led states enact bans
Friday’s demonstrations mostly passed off without incident -- although police fired tear gas on protesters in Phoenix, Arizona and a pickup truck drove through a group of protesters in the Iowa city of Cedar Rapids, running over a woman’s foot.
In Washington on Saturday the scene was once again mostly peaceful -- barring the odd shouting match between abortion rights advocates and opponents.
Carolyn Keller, 57, who travelled all the way from New Jersey, said she was enraged by the ruling, warning: “They came after women. They will come after the LGBT community and contraception.”
But counter-protesters like Savannah Craven stood firm.
“It’s not a personal choice to have an abortion, it involves two people and unfortunately that choice ends in the ending of someone’s life,” she told AFP.
As protesters like Craven made clear, while Friday’s ruling represents a victory in the religious right’s struggle against abortion, the movement’s ultimate goal is a nationwide ban.
That goal is now within sight in about two dozen states which are now expected to severely restrict or outright ban and criminalise abortions.
It’s not a personal choice to have an abortion, it involves two people and unfortunately that choice ends in the ending of someone’s life
Missouri was first to ban the procedure on Friday, making no exception for rape or incest, joined as of Saturday morning by at least seven other states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.
In Wisconsin, where an 1849 law banning abortion except when saving the life of the mother may go into effect, Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, vowed to offer clemency to any doctors who face prosecution, according to local media.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court tossed out the argument in Roe v. Wade that women had the right to abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy with regard to their own bodies.
Several Democratic-ruled states, anticipating an influx of patients, have already taken steps to facilitate abortion, and three of them -- California, Oregon and Washington -- issued a joint pledge to defend access in the wake of the court’s decision.
Abortion providers said they had seen a surge in donations since the ruling, as they braced for the long hard road ahead.
“In the 24 hours following the court’s devastating decision, Planned Parenthood ...saw a 40-fold total increase in donations compared to a typical day -- more than half of whom are new donors,” Kelley Robinson, vice president of advocacy at the largest abortion provider in the United States, said in a statement to AFP.
“This is just the beginning, and we won’t back down,” she said.