Hundreds gathered in front of the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh Friday evening, listening as Planned Parenthood, the Abortion Defense Committee and allies led a protest of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade.

“Don’t like abortions? Ignore them like you ignore school shootings,” one poster read.

Many people remember where they were on landmark days. State Rep. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale and her party’s nominee for Congress, asked: “Where were we when our fundamental rights started to erode?

“If you care about abortion rights – and this one’s uncomfortable,” Summer Lee called out to the crowd, “it’s time you stop saying ‘vote blue no matter who.’”

Ginny Hildebrand of North Point Breeze protests the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade downtown Pittsburgh on Friday June 24. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam, a Democrat elected at-large, led a group scream. She said the system “was designed to function in exactly the way that it’s operating right now. … This is the way that the system was designed!”

While Democratic elected officials have almost universally panned the decision (even as Republicans praised it), there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the two-party system.

“I vote,” one attendee said, “but that obviously doesn’t do anything.” 

Carnegie resident Mary Zuccaro said she wants to see everyone showing up to support reproductive health, “including grandmas like me. It’s not just the young radicals.” A retired Planned Parenthood employee, Zuccaro added that she hopes Democrats follow through on their promise to protect abortion in Pennsylvania. “If not, all hell is going to break loose.”

There was also a contingent demanding more radical political change, rallying behind the chant: “Democrats we call your bluff. Voting blue is not enough.”

A handful of anti-abortion protesters on the margins of the gathering shouted, “Pro-choice remains a lie — you don’t care if people die.” A pro-choice protester attempted to shout them down.

Pam Amicarella said she found out about the rally just hours before it began. 

“I wish more people would’ve shown up,” she said, adding that she’s upset that a court espousing a minority opinion is controlling the lives of a majority of Americans.

Emma Forbari, 35, came to the rally because, she said, “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Protesters voice their opposition to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade. From left: Alexis Wright, of Pittsburgh, Ashley Allison of Bridgeville and Shayla Wellham of Canonsburg. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

The event brought together Pittsburghers with a variety of perspectives on reproductive rights.

Three graduates of Brentwood High School came to the rally together. It was a long way from their high school health classes, where the sex-ed curriculum was brief: “Abstinence,” Taryn Barrett said in summary. Instead, the former students said they learned about reproductive health by talking to each other and teaching themselves.

Ann Burlingham said she got a morning text from her 18-year-old son telling her about the rally, so she asked him to pick her up. “He’s a child we chose and we raised him right.”

Ashlie Brown, left, and her son Ashton, 8, at the downtown protest. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource

The crowd Downtown appeared to include more women than men, plus trans and non-binary participants.

A Bellevue woman attended with her best friend and the friend’s sons. She gestured to one of them and said he’d never understand this. “It doesn’t affect them,” she said. “We have some enlightened ones, obviously, and that’s awesome, but they can’t get pregnant.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speaks at a protest against Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in front of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

The Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was little surprise, as a rare leak of a draft opinion gave the public seven weeks notice of the monumental change.

Nonetheless, some observers had weighed the possibility that Chief Justice John Roberts would swing the conservative majority toward a compromise position. That did not occur.

Writing for the court’s conservative majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that prior decisions to defend and reaffirm the right to abortion services in previous decades — including in the landmark cases Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 — were wrong because the Constitution affords no protection to such services. 

Alisa Grishman, 40, of Uptown, participates in a Downtown rally protesting the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case, on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.  

In many states, including Pennsylvania, people can still access legal abortions, but more than a dozen states will ban abortions in short order and others may follow suit.

Protesters voice their opposition to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act, a 1982 law, permits abortions up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy and only makes exceptions beyond that for extraordinary circumstances, like if the health of the person giving birth is in jeopardy. The law already implements restrictions on abortion access, requiring pregnant people to consult with a doctor at least 24 hours before having an abortion and minors to receive a parent’s permission. 

Efforts to further restrict abortion in Pennsylvania have been vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf in recent years, but his term ends in January 2023. State House Republicans said Friday they plan to consider changing the law.

The decision has immediate ramifications for political races, with the post of governor up for grabs.

Protesters voice their opposition to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Austin Davis, a McKeesport Democrat and state representative who is that party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, predicted that the Republican-controlled General Assembly would pass further restrictions on abortion in Pennsylvania.

“I can’t wait to stand next to Josh as he vetoes that abortion legislation,” said Davis, referring to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is the Democratic nominee for governor.

Protesters gather downtown Pittsburgh hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that established the right to abortion nationally. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

Making their voices heard in front of Downtown’s City-County Building this evening were Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, the Abortion Defense Committee, the Black Anarchist Community Council, Justice for Jim Rogers, the Black Liberation Autonomous Collective of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Food not Bombs, the Revolutionary Women’s Study Group and other allied organizations, according to information provided by organizers earlier in the day.

Sophia Levin, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, is a freelance journalist and former PublicSource intern. She can be reached at sophia@publicsource.org.

Quinn Glabicki is PublicSource’s environmental reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at quinn@publicsource.org.

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Sophia Levin, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, is a freelance journalist and former PublicSource intern.

Quinn Glabicki

Quinn Glabicki is a writer and photographer covering climate and environment for PublicSource. He is also a Report for America corps member. Quinn uses visual and written mediums to tell stories about...