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Protesters across the U.S. march in opposition to Texas abortion law

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other U.S. cities today, abortion rights advocates gathered for marches to protest the new Texas law that severely restricts abortions in that state. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been out talking to the marchers in Washington, D.C., and she is with us now. Danielle, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Of course. Hey, Michel.

MARTIN: So what's the march been like where you are?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, so today started with a rally at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. with speakers and music. And then after, you know, a couple of hours down there, people marched down to the Supreme Court, and that's where I am right now. There was a prayer rally when I got here, when the marchers got here, of abortion rights opponents. So there has been some yelling between the two camps, but that's about it. The size of this march, I would say, is thousands. It's not nearly as big as that first Women's March in 2017, but it's still pretty large. And, I should add here, the significance of ending at the Supreme Court is because the new term starts on Monday, and this next term is when the court will hear a case on a Mississippi abortion law that could greatly weaken U.S. abortion protections.

MARTIN: We mentioned that the march is focused on abortion rights. What did the marchers tell you about their sense of the future for abortion rights?

KURTZLEBEN: You know, I've asked a lot of people today whether they're optimistic, fearful, neither, both, and marchers overwhelmingly told me they do feel optimistic, but then no one is fooling themselves. They know the Supreme Court could weaken abortion protections further, and some marchers did tell me about a fear of going backwards, as they put it. Lisa Segel is one. She's in her 50s and came up here from Georgia with two of her friends, and she talked about that feeling.

LISA SEGEL: We've watched this, I think, reproductive rights be clipped away from us, and watching that happen and things that we did fight for when we were in our 20s disappear is very disappointing.

MARTIN: What are you hearing from advocates about their sense of next steps? Like, what do they say they want to do now, especially with the issue in the hands of the Supreme Court?

KURTZLEBEN: You know, I've talked to a lot of those advocates all week, and they say, yes, they're on offense, they're pushing for greater protections, but they know that they are very much on defense in terms of preventing more restrictive laws. But there is one other theme that has - I've found really notable that's come up in speeches and from activists in that they think that their movement needs to be more forceful and less timid about talking about abortion. And that's what Devin Thomas (ph) told me. She's in her 20s. She just moved to D.C. from Missouri. This is her phrasing. She said she doesn't just consider herself pro-choice but pro-abortion, and she explained to me the distinction.

DEVIN THOMAS: People use the pro-choice of being like, if I was pregnant, I would, of course, keep it, but I believe in being pro-choice. It's kind of, like, a liberal, like, [expletive] way of talking about it. But because of how politicized abortion is in this time, I think it's not enough to say that I'm just - whatever you want to do is whatever you want to do. I think saying empowering all your choice is important, not just saying that both are OK.

MARTIN: And very quickly, Danielle, I can hear a lot of activity behind you. Are there counterprotesters out? How much sort of pushback are the rallygoers getting?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So when we got here to the Supreme Court, the marchers and reporters, there are maybe a couple hundred folks out at a prayer rally opposing abortion rights. The two sides are separated by fencing from what I've seen so far, so there's been a bit of yelling but nothing more than that so far.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben at the Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington, D.C. Danielle, thank you so much.

KURTZLEBEN: Of course. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.