by Nic Rowan

When the Dobbs decision was handed down, there were already people waiting outside the Supreme Court. They had been waiting for nearly two months, and they were not surprised by the ruling. Everyone has known since the leak in May that Roe and Casey would be overturned by the end of the term. The justices had made their decision in February. No amount of public protest, not even the threat of assassination, could change it. The crowd groaned. But there was nothing anyone could do.

The pro-lifers took the news well, though their response was rather muted, all things considered. They, too, had been gathering at the court every day, praying that the leak was not yet another cruel taunt in a fight that until yesterday never seemed to turn in their favor. When the victory was announced, there wasn’t anything for them to do either. Anyway, there is not much dignity in celebrating in front of a courthouse. After a few prayers of thanksgiving and a victory lap around the block, most went home. There was champagne to be drunk and old friends to be called. And, as many remarked, it was time to prepare for what comes next. Roe’s fall is only the beginning: the work of. the next few decades will be much harder, and pro-lifers will not have the luxury of blaming the Supreme Court when they meet with resistance.

Quite the opposite was true for those who did remain outside the court. They were not shocked, but they were angry. About an hour after the decision was announced, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez strode into the crowd, wearing an impeccably brushed pink suit, and led the gathered people in a series of chants. “Into the streets! Into the streets! Into the streets!” she said, before her security escort led her away. That exhortation, which was repeated many times over throughout the day (and deep into the night) largely fell flat. Some people did turn out to protest, but they were the same people who come to nearly every demonstration in Washington, D.C. After Ocasio-Cortez left, I began keeping a list: there was Don Folden, who uses protests to advertise his tourism business; Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, washed-up controversialists from the Trump era; Grayson Quay, who uses these events to “debate” pro-choice activists. Many more activists from groups such as ShutDownDC and Extinction Rebellion padded out the crowd, handing out signs and stickers. An ice cream truck’s loudspeaker cut through all the noise, blaring “Greensleeves,” which at times drowned out the chanting.

When night fell, it was generally expected that the crowd would get rowdy, rattle some fences, throw paint at churches. In the weeks before, posters had been slapped up all over Capitol Hill demanding that people wreck the place if Roe were overturned. But the opposite happened. People for the most part went home. Others went to the Machine Gun Kelly concert at the Capital One Center. (It was consistently the most populated event in D.C. last night.) Those who remained mostly ceased chanting. At one point, the local Antifa chapter rolled through the plaza in front of the court. But there was no energy there, so they moved on, along with a large police escort in riot gear.

More protests of course are expected throughout this weekend and for the rest of the summer. They will get a lot of media attention, and who knows, maybe something memorable will happen at one. But it is unlikely that their organizers will muster the same energy that the movement opposing police brutality summoned two summers ago. While most people in the United States believe that abortion should be legal, very few view it as a positive good, let alone something that merits taking to the streets. The bizarre language of the pro-abortion movement limits its appeal: expelling “invaders” from the bodies of “birthing people.”

Most Americans see abortion as a shameful convenience. For decades that fact worked against the pro-life movement, which, even with the most compelling arguments about the value of human life, still has not converted the country to its beliefs. The Dobbs decision, which for the most part allows abortion to remain a convenience (you can still get pills even in states with restrictive laws) puts the pro-choice movement in a similar bind. Only the die-hards care enough about the issue to do something. Everyone else will grumble but in the end settle for the status quo. As anyone who’s spent his entire adult life surrounded by pro-life activists knows, it’s not a pleasant position.

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