Women on TikTok are sending coat hangers to Supreme Court over threat to Roe v Wade

‘We need to be using imagery that empowers people,’ says campaign group in response to social media protest

Gino Spocchia
Monday 09 May 2022 14:36

Related video: Pelosi attacks Republicans over Roe decision draft

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Women on the social media platform TikTok have allegedly been sending coat hangers to the US Supreme Court as a symbol of protest at the threats made to abortion rights enshrined by Roe v Wade.

In a video on Tuesday last week, TikTok user Katarina Nowack showed herself ordering six wire coat hangers which she shipped to the Supreme Court in Washington DC, and called on her followers to do the same.

The Amazon order, which came with a message reading “Tools that women will need for the future you are creating”, came within 48 hours of a draft opinion suggesting Roe could be overturned by the conservative-majority court.

If justices do overturn Roe, women across the US will no long be constitutionally protected when accessing abortion services. Campaigners including Ms Nowack fear a return to unsafe practices, including those using coat hangers, if that happens.

“Essentially, an unwanted pregnancy would destroy my life,” Ms Nowack told NBC News, who reported similar coat hanger protests on TikTok following news of Roe. “I wanted the Supreme Court to see exactly what type of future they are creating.”

Coat hangers have long been associated with unregulated abortions, with women previously dying from the unsafe practice when medical services are unavailable. The most recent instance occurred in 2015 in the US, according to the report.

“Sending the Supreme Court coat hangers won’t directly cause anything, but it will show them and other lawmakers how many people are willing to fight for their rights,” Ms Nowack added.

By Tuesday afternoon, the coat hangers that Ms Nowack ordered on Amazon had reportedly been cleared of stock. Although it was unclear if that was because of calls for similar action.

 Dr Nisha Verma, an obstetrician-gynecologist and family planning fellow, cautioned against the use of coat hangers however and told NBC News that it was a sign of “stigma”.

“Abortion is part of health care,” said Dr Verma. “It’s something that everyone should have access to. But when we use this imagery, it creates fear and it creates stigma that both discourages clinicians to provide abortion care and creates fear for the people that need to access it.”

Protesters outside the US Supreme Court on Sunday

The Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, or URGE, also expressed concern about the imagery of coat hangers and said in the same interview: “We need to be using imagery that empowers people who have had or are seeking an abortion so that they feel confident in whatever decision, not imagery that plays into harmful or offensive tropes.”

Hundreds of women gathered for protests in support of Roe at the weekend in cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, according to The Associated Press. Signs held by protesters included calls to “Abort the Court”.

Democrats in the US Senate are expected to introduce a bill on Mondaythat would enshrine abortion rights into law on Monday, although as Politico reports it will likely fail to pass when put up for a vote.

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