Emotions over abortion simmered on the sidewalks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, with hundreds of activists on both sides of the issue staging dueling rallies and anti-abortion lawmakers joining the fray.
"If you support life, let me hear you scream," South Carolina Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott told anti-abortion demonstrators, eliciting yells and applause."We are talking about 10 fingers and 10 toes and one precious heart. We are here for the right reasons."
The court heard arguments in a legal challenge to a restrictive, Republican-backed Texas abortion law, with a ruling expected by the end of June. It was the latest flashpoint in America's culture wars.
Christina Bennett, a member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, shared her story during the anti-abortion rally about how her mother made a last-minute decision not to abort her.
"I'm so grateful for my life and I love my life," Bennett said, defending the Texas law at issue in the case that imposes regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildings, rules that supporters of the measure state are intended to protect women's health.
Anti-abortion protesters held large posters with photos of aborted fetuses and signs that read, "Protect women, protect life." One young woman clutched rosary beads in her hands and had red tape over her mouth with the word "life" written on it.
Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the anti-abortion rally, but was barely audible over screams from abortion rights protesters shouting, "Stop the sham!"
Abortion rights advocates contend the Texas law is not aimed at protecting women's health but rather at imposing burdensome regulations that would force abortion clinics to close.
Demonstrator Hannah Friedman, a George Washington University student, held up a coat hanger with #WeWontGoBack scribbled across the front, a reference to how unsafe abortions were performed before the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
"I think it's really important to speak against the pro-life rhetoric going on behind me, with people using the Bible to defend their own personal beliefs and then inflict those beliefs upon me and my life and my decisions," Friedman added.
"This has been one of the most challenging, difficult and intense years of our lives," Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman’s Health, one of the abortion providers that challenged the law, told supporters.
"After all, we have nothing to hide and we stand in the light."