Pro-choice demonstrators continue to turn up outside the homes of supreme court justices, with the latest target being conservative Amy Coney Barrett, who signed on to a majority draft opinion that was leaked to reveal an intention to overturn the constitutional right to seek an abortion in the US.
“The right to your own body – to do what you want with your own body – is the most personal freedom you can have,” one protester said from among a group wearing long red “handmaid” capes and white bonnets earlier this week to symbolize forced childbearing, as members of the Virginia state police watched nearby.
Several organizations, led by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March, are preparing for a nationwide day of pro-choice marches on Saturday.
Protests have been occurring intermittently since the 2 May leak of the draft opinion that sent shockwaves across America by indicating five of the nine justices favor overturning the landmark supreme court decision in Roe v Wade that paved the way for legal abortion across the US in 1973.
Protesters have so far gathered outside the residences in the Washington DC area of Samuel Alito, who wrote the scorching draft opinion, and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as Barrett and the chief justice, John Roberts, who did not sign on to the draft opinion, unlike the other three and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
The court’s final decision on Roe, which is wrapped up in a pivotal Mississippi case before the court, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, is expected next month.
Meanwhile Republican lawmakers are urging Merrick Garland, the US attorney general, to employ a 72-year-old federal law that outlaws demonstrating outside judges’ residences.
The protests, both outside the justices’ houses and outside the supreme court, have been peaceful, with no known arrests, although new barriers have been erected to block off the sweeping marble steps and columns of the supreme court building.
But there is a growing fear from pro-choice activists that women seeking abortion or even using abortion medication, and medical professionals, could be criminally charged if Roe is struck down and individual states can choose to ban the procedure.
On Wednesday, Garland’s office issued a statement saying: “Attorney General Garland continues to be briefed on security matters related to the supreme court and supreme court justices.
“The attorney general directed the US marshals service to help ensure the justices’ safety by providing additional support to the marshal of the supreme court and supreme court police.”
It is against the law in Virginia to picket in residential areas. A source in the office of Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, advised the Guardian that they are doing “all they can” to provide security.
Fairfax police sent a statement saying: “Our civil disturbance unit (CDU) is trained to handle crowds that gather to express their views and are well versed on the laws that govern these planned gatherings. Our officers work to provide a safe space for individuals to exercise first amendment rights and also maintain community safety.”
On Friday morning pro-choice House Democrats held a rally in Washington after the US Senate on Wednesday failed to pass legislation that would codify the rights provided by the landmark Roe case.
“People should continue to exercise their rights within the first amendment,” the House Democratic caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries, told the Guardian when asked about activists protesting at the homes of members of the supreme court bench.