The anger and disbelief of abortion rights advocates was tangible as hundreds of people gathered at the Utah Capitol steps with rushed picket signs and posters Tuesday evening. Among the signs were the phrases "mind your own uterus" and "bans off our bodies."
Tuesday's rally and subsequent march came after a leaked draft opinion by the Supreme Court that suggests the majority of justices may lean toward overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. Questions about the legitimacy of the document were answered Tuesday by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who confirmed the draft is authentic.
"Completely disappointed, like I never thought in my lifetime that something like this would happen. It's 2022, this is not at all OK; especially after Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing, it's just really disappointing," said attendee Lily Smith.
"Just finding out the news, I was honestly very sick to my stomach," echoed her friend Claire Jones.
The leaked document has mobilized protests and rallies nationwide, including Tuesday's at the Utah Capitol. The rally drew a crowd of over 400 people and a handful of counter-protesters were present throughout.
Tuesday's rally was a counterpoint to a January rally when as many as 3,000 Utahns participated in an anti-abortion rally at the Capitol on the 49th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
"Today, we stand here because the agency of women and all oppressed genders is yet again under attack. The women's struggle is a force of this world and a direct threat to the misogynist in elected office that cannot be stopped by a few court rulings," Ermiya Fanaeian, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation Salt Lake, said Tuesday.
"Tomorrow is the power of our collective, when the mass feminist struggle makes noise, it does so in order to move us to a place where gender-based violence and the lack of basic necessities are a concern of the past," she continued as calls from the crowd echoed in agreement.
Advocates reinforced the power of the collective, encouraging those gathered to mobilize not only in protests but at the polls. With midterm elections approaching speakers prompted the crowd to register and vote on behalf of reproductive rights.
"When someone contemplates an abortion they've thought about that for a long time and that choice should be their choice. They should be able to go to a place where they're safe and where they will feel like they are comforted. We as policymakers, we as courts, we as religious institutions, we have no place there," said Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City. "We have to show people that we care about women and we care about their choices."
Along with Romero was Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the entirety of the Salt Lake City Council.
"Planned Parenthood is a backbone of health care, especially in a state like Utah," said Mendenhall to the crowd.
Utah is one of several states with a "trigger law," should the Supreme Court overturn Roe V. Wade. The draft would place abortion access into states' hands, a decision Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said they were “encouraged and optimistic” about. A bill passed in 2020 by the Utah Legislature creates a ban on abortions, with several outlined exceptions.
Physicians who perform abortions outside of the outlined circumstances could face a second-degree felony, according to the law.
Members of Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation expressed anger at the leak of the draft opinion Tuesday.
Advocates and speakers at Tuesday's Capitol rally emphasized the fact that abortion is still currently legal. The Supreme Court has not yet made an official ruling and many have vowed to fight ahead of the decision, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.
"No matter what this Supreme Court decides this fight is not over," said Brittany Nystrom, ACLU Utah executive director. "It's been nearly five decades since Roe v. Wade was decided and here we are yet again fighting for your right to decide if and when to have a child."
And while the fight continues clinics will continue to remain open, said Karry Galloway, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.
She encouraged the crowd to access their rage, donate to the Utah Abortion Fund or other organizations and volunteer where they can.
"This legislature needs to be not so capricious with setting their rules, they need to pay attention to real-life Utahns who have real-life struggles to make their decisions. They have to listen to the doctors, they have to listen to the people who provide the services and they have to listen to you," said Galloway.
Following the speakers, a large portion of the crowd began to march through the streets of Salt Lake City. Horns of cars blared, both in support and frustration, as the group traveled through intersections.
Organizers promised their fight would continue even after the march.