As celebrities stumbled up the stairs to the Met on Monday, wearing only the finest designer clothes, news leaked that the Supreme Court had privately voted to end Roe v Wade. Needless to say, this is a terrifying time for people who have a uterus—not to mention other populations that also have a history of being oppressed and persecuted.
I don’t know about you, but the main thought that has been swirling around in my brain lately is, “What now?”
Even though abortion is still legal in the United States,for now, it is absolutely crucial that we use our voices to stand up for the rights of all Americans. Abortion is healthcare. And in reality, banning abortions will only bansafeabortions. Pro-choiceispro-life.
If you’re planning on hitting the streets to protest abortion bans (and other important causes) in the coming days, weeks, and possibly months, there are some things you should know.
Here’s a list of ways that you canstay safe while protestingabortion bans:
Know your rights
No matter what anyone tells you, you have the right to protest! Under the US Constitution, you have the right to freedom of speech and the right to gather peacefully. However, it’s important to educate yourself on your rights before hitting the streets. While protesting itself isn’t illegal, there areguidelinesto follow to help ensure that law enforcement doesn’t shut down a peaceful protest. (Although if the Black Lives Matter protests of 2021 taught us anything, it’s that law enforcement tends to be trigger happy.)
Once the police decide that a protest has turned violent or become a public disturbance, they may arrest participants under the guise of “unlawful assembly.” If you are arrested, you have the right to know why you are being detained, and law enforcement must give you access to a lawyer and a phone to call your family. Still, let your loved ones know when and where you’ll be, and write important phone numbers in permanent marker on your arm, like an emergency contact and legal aid.
The buddy system
The more the merrier! Bringing a (or several!) buddies with you to a protest is a good idea, but if you are planning on going alone, make sure to let friends and family know where you’ll be.
What to wear
Check the weather before you head out, and dress accordingly. Even if the sun is blistering hot, be sure to wear clothing that hides any marks, scars, and tattoos that could be used to identify you. Long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants will protect your skin from tear gas, rubber bullets, and even sunburn. Wear close-toed sneakers that are comfortable for walking long distances and perhaps even running.
If you have poor eyesight like I do, be sure to wear glasses rather than contacts—pepper spray and tear gas can get trapped behind the contact lens, causing even more pain and possibly even damage to your eyes.
What to pack
Pack as if you’re going to be arrested, to be on the safe side. Snacks such as trail mix and granola bars will give you energy throughout the day, and you’ll definitely need a water bottle to stay hydrated. Don’t forget prescription medicine, inhalers, or epi-pens—anything that you take regularly or will need in an emergency. Opt for cash rather than a credit card.
If you have extra space in your bag, you can bring extra supplies and food for other protesters. And don’t forget the beautiful signs you decorated the night before!
What about Covid?
It’s important to remember that we are still currently fighting the spread of Covid-19 and the virus is still a very real, very deadly threat. Even if you are vaccinated and boosted, it’s a good idea to wear a mask when gathering in large groups—not only to protect yourself from Covid but also to protect others at the protest and those you may come in contact with later.
It’s also a good idea to get tested after gathering and if you’re experiencing symptoms before the protest, you should sit out and make it to the next meeting when you’re feeling better.
What if I can’t attend a protest?
Don’t worry! If you’re unable to protest—whether due to Covid precautions, a busy schedule, or a very justified fear of being arrested, pepper sprayed, or worse—there is still plenty you can do to help. You can donate supplies, such as water bottles, hand sanitizer, first aid kits, snacks, and cleaning supplies (contact local organizers for a list of supplies they may need). If you’re feeling crafty, you can create signs for those who are physically at protests to carry.
Other important actions include writing letters to your elected officials, signingpetitions, and calling your local and state representatives. Many have taken to social media to offer rides to clinics and assistance to those seeking an abortion. During scary times like these, there’s nothing more important than the power of community.
You can also donate toPlanned Parenthood, theNational Abortion Federation, and other organizations that support abortion rights.
Mind your own uterus
Protesting can definitely be a daunting experience—with police violence, scare tactics, and a country that increasingly mirrors a dystopian nightmare. But it’s important that fear doesn’t get in the way of standing up for what you believe in and more importantly, standing up for human rights. Even if you aren’t able to physically be at a protest, there are still ways that you can protest abortion bans and give women their bodies back.