Hundreds rally for abortion access at Omaha City Hall

Photo by Andrew Smith/ The Gateway

Molly Ashford

Hundreds gathered at Omaha’s City Hall on Tuesday evening to rally for access to safe and legal abortions.

The mood was energetic, with chants of “we won’t go back” and “hands off our bodies” accompanied by near-constant honking from passing cars. Babies in strollers and grandmothers in wheelchairs mixed with politicians and activists, creating a sizable crowd of at least 250.

The protest was quickly organized after news broke Monday night that the Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, two landmark cases which solidified abortion access as a constitutional right. Politico obtained and published the 98-page draft opinion, which was written in February by Justice Samuel Alito.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” the draft reads. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue to the people’s elected representatives.”

The Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of the draft on Tuesday but said that it is not representative of a final decision. The court is expected to release an official decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June.

“It still hasn’t really hit me,” said UNO student Lillian McEvoy. “It’s just an avalanche of disappointment all of the time.”

Legal analysts and activists warned of this outcome in Dobbs since oral arguments were held late last year. The case challenges the constitutionality of a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. The draft opinion holds that the ban in Mississippi is constitutional, which paves the way for states to limit access to abortion or ban it altogether.

“I wasn’t surprised, especially with the stacking of the court,” said Jaden Perkins, an activist and podcast host. “It’s going to take everything that the country has to make sure that Roe v. Wade does not get overturned.”

If Roe and Casey are overturned, it will mark the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away a previously established constitutional right. Riley Kessler, a Senior at UNO, said that she was distraught by the decision, but not necessarily surprised.

“It felt like it was a long time coming,” she said. “I want to say that the path forward is voting, but I also think it’s things like this: people gathering and showing up to support one another.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13 states have passed so-called ‘trigger laws’ in order to immediately ban or severely restrict abortion if Roe is overturned.

Nebraska lawmakers tried and failed to pass a trigger law in the last legislative session, but members of the Unicameral have indicated that they will call a special legislative session to pass legislation which limits abortion access in the state. Currently, in Nebraska, there is a 22-week cutoff.

Still, for organizers and attendees at Tuesday’s rally, hope remains.

“I’m not really much of a patriotic person,” McEvoy said, looking out at the crowd. “But seeing all of the people here and all of the people honking, it does make me feel proud.”