Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the Southland as part of a nationwide effort to protect abortion rights now that the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Dual efforts by the Women’s March Foundation and Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights drew large crowds of demonstrators nationwide Saturday for a series of “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies, including thousands who gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall.
“Wealthy women and well-connected women will have the resources to travel to another state to have an abortion, while women of color, poor women of color across this country, are going to suffer and are going to die as a consequence,” Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez told the crowd, describing the potential impact of a Roe v. Wade reversal. “Women of color have limited access to resources and cannot afford to take one day out of work to go have a procedure in another state.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed a sentiment expressed by officials in most parts of California, where abortions would remain available even if Roe v. Wade is struck down.
“LA is pro-choice. LA is for women,” Garcetti said. “We are a sanctuary.”
The downtown demonstration was “peaceful” and there were no arrests., Officer Rosario Cervantes of the Los Angeles Police Department told City News Service. No major incidents or arrests were reported at any of the rallies.
The Women’s March had been planned for months, but gained a new urgency on May 2 when a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, revealed the court had privately voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In the Los Angeles area, rallies were also held in Pasadena, Long Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Sherman Oaks, Claremont, Avalon and Venice Beach. Thousands of people also rallied at Centennial Regional Park in Santa Ana.
All told, the crowds heard from a range of speakers, both famous and less well known, including Sen. Alex Padilla, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Representatives Katie Porter, Karen Bass and Maxine Waters, state Sen. Sydney Kamlager, attorney Gloria Allred, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles president and CEO Sue Dunlap and actors Laura Dern, Ricki Lake, Lisa Ann Walter and Christine Lahti, among others.
Women and men of all ages and backgrounds, participated, with a smattering of pro-life activists. And most were armed with a variety of handwritten signs bearing such messages as: “Men are part of 100% of unplanned pregnancies. Where are (the) forced vasectomies,” “Why do guns have more rights than me?” and “Extremists in the court are the ones to abort.”
Organizers said Saturday’s protests were just the beginning of what some are calling a “summer of rage” with more demonstrations planned for the coming weeks.
The proposed Supreme Court ruling is not yet final, but is expected to be handed down in June or July.
It stems from the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In a challenge to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Mississippi passed a law in 2018 prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
If the pending decision becomes final, it would overturn one of the most debated Supreme Court rulings of the past century. However, despite some vocal opposition to Roe v. Wade, the ruling establishing women’s access to abortion is supported by a majority of Americans.
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS in January found that just 30% of Americans supported the Supreme Court completely overturning Roe v. Wade, while 69% opposed it. CNN reported that the poll’s finding was consistent with other recent polls and historical trends, and that since the network began polling in 1989, public support for completely overturning Roe has never gone past 36%.
Roe v. Wade guarantees abortion rights throughout the United States until a fetus is viable, typically between 22 and 24 weeks. Overturning the decision would strip away federal protection of abortion rights, and leave it up to individual states to set abortion policy.
Famously liberal California is unlikely to take steps to ban or limit access to abortion, and discussions have already been under way about using the state as a safe haven for women across the country to pursue reproductive health care.
Gov. Gavin Newsom; Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego; and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood; have voiced support for creating a constitutional amendment in California to guarantee the right to abortion in the sate. Newsom has also proposed expanding access to abortion services, including covering uncompensated care for people who don’t have insurance that covers abortions.
“California will not stand idly by as extremists roll back our basic constitutional rights;” Newsom said, “we’re going to fight like hell, making sure that all women — not just those in California — know that this state continues to recognize and protect their fundamental rights.”