Dueling rallies as U.S. Supreme Court confronts abortion rights case

WASHINGTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people favoring and opposing abortion rights staged dueling rallies in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday as the nine justices considered a case that could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The justices heard arguments in Mississippi's bid to revive a 2018 state law banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, with the conservatives who hold a majority signaling sympathy toward the Republican-backed statute that was blocked by lower courts.

Shortly after the arguments ended, U.S. Capitol Police arrested dozens of abortion rights supporters who sat down in a crosswalk near the courthouse, obstructing traffic.

One of those arrested, Derenda Hancock, pumped her fist in the air as a police officer led her away from the crosswalk. Hancock serves as an escort for women entering Mississippi's sole abortion provider, Jackson Women's Health Organization clinic, which attracts regular anti-abortion protests. The clinic challenged the Mississippi law in the case argued on Wednesday.

There was a boisterous scene outside the court before, during and after the arguments.

"Roe needs to be abolished. It was one of the biggest mistakes our country ever made," said J.C. Carpenter, 49, who drove from Marysville, California to voice her opposition to abortion. "I am feeling optimistic."

Abortion opponents, some carrying Christian crosses and playing Christian music, carried a variety of signs including "Abortion Is Murder," "Love Life" and "Turn To Jesus Or Burn In Hell."

U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington state, argued against abortion using the example of her son Cole, who has Down syndrome. "His life is worth living," she said.

Abortion rights supporters carried signs saying "Abortion Is Essential," "Hands Off Roe" and "Abortion is Healthcare," and some chanted: "What do we want? Abortion access. When do we want it? Now."

"Guess what? When you make abortion illegal it does not stop abortion," Shannon Brewer, the director of the Jackson clinic, told the crowd.

Jen Rudolph, 52, who drove four hours from Raleigh, North Carolina, with her 17-year-old daughter, said they were there to support Roe v. Wade.

"Republicans get abortions, Democrats get abortions. It's a healthcare right," Rudolph said.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Jan Wolfe; Writing by Julia Harte; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Gabriella Borter is a reporter on the U.S. National Affairs team, covering cultural and political issues as well as breaking news. She has won two Front Page Awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York - in 2020 for her beat reporting on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2019 for her spot story on the firing of the police officer who killed Eric Garner. The latter was also a Deadline Club Awards finalist. She holds a B.A. in English from Yale University and joined Reuters in 2017.