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Abortion-rights advocates and opponents gather outside the Supreme Court


There has been swift reaction to the leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision. It was reported by Politico. NPR has not independently verified the document. The leaked opinion also could change before the court issues a final decision on the issue. Nevertheless, protesters have gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to oppose or cheer the possibility of Roe being overturned. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben joins us now from the steps of the court. Danielle, just describe what you're seeing there.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Well, you might be able to hear some of it. There is - there has been chanting going on for a while. Producer Barbara Sprunt and I got here at 8 this morning. And you have had both pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion rights groups really growing since then. It started out at a few, and now the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court isn't totally covered, but it's getting there. You got, you know, maybe a couple hundred folks and, you know, it's getting pretty loud. The - and I will say that the group that is opposing abortion rights has been perhaps probably the more vocal of the two. They're being quite loud.

MARTIN: Well, let's hear more about what they're actually telling you. When you speak to those who are supportive of Roe v. Wade and fearful that it would be overturned, what are they telling you?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, that's exactly it. They're very fearful. They're very upset. One woman is Rachel Rawlings. She and her wife drove down from Philadelphia today. They said they just couldn't sleep last night after the news. And here is what Rachel told me about having lived her whole life in a country with Roe v. Wade in effect.

RACHEL RAWLINGS: I am a little over 50. OK. So Roe v. Wade was decided when I was 5. So I've - and my first memories were of Watergate. So I've kind of always known that things could change.

KURTZLEBEN: So there is a sense among a lot of the pro-abortion rights folks that, you know, they knew this could come. And now it's finally here. And she also said she's worried about her marriage to a woman. She's afraid that Obergefell could eventually be struck down as well. Now, you do have...

MARTIN: This is the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, absolutely. Now, interestingly, you do have people here who are supportive of abortion rights who do have complicated feelings about abortion, though. One of those is Sarah Garland. She considers herself a Christian, and she told me more about that.

SARAH GARLAND: It's heartbreaking to think of a woman having an abortion. And I think sometimes the pro-choice movement can take that emotional side out. Just the reality of if you make abortion illegal, women are still going to get abortions. It's just going to become harder. And specifically, that's going to negatively impact lower class women, our Black and brown sisters. Like, I haven't always been pro-abortion. I even wouldn't say that I am. But I'm just hoping that people can realize that it's more complicated than pro-life, pro-choice.

MARTIN: So those are some voices representing those who support Roe vs. Wade. What about those on the other side of this, the folks who are there who oppose abortion rights?

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Well, you do have a couple of groups out here who are opposing abortion rights. You have Students for Life. There's also a group called Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising. So this is people on the left who oppose abortion. And I spoke to one woman from that group. Her name is Kristen Monahan. And she - I asked her how she felt when she heard the news last night. Here's what she said.

KRISTEN MONAHAN: I was a little bit surprised because I tend to be a bit skeptical with conservative justices because a lot of times conservative politicians tend to pay lip service to the pro-life movement to gain votes. So I've always kind of been like, I don't know if they'll really overturn Roe, but this was, like, a sign that they're actually thinking about it.

KURTZLEBEN: And I do want to add there that she said that, you know, they're celebrating and they're out here, but they're also out here to show the conservative justices that they want that to be the opinion, that they want the conservative justices to stick to their guns on this.

MARTIN: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben outside of the U.S. Supreme Court, thank you.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.