With the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in doubt, more than 1,000 abortion rights supporters gathered Saturday morning in downtown San Diego and later took to the streets in a boisterous but peaceful march that packed seven city blocks.
“Here in California, we will fight for the right for anyone and everyone to receive reproductive health care no matter what and, most importantly, the right to have an abortion,” attorney Mehry Mohseni told the crowd that overflowed across Broadway in front of the Central Superior Courthouse, blocking traffic in both directions.
During the march, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as, “Ho ho, hey hey, Roe v. Wade is here to stay” and “My body, my choice.” Many brought homemade signs, with some placards reading, “I will not quietly go back to the 1950s,” “If it’s not your body, it’s not your decision” and “I am not ovary-acting.”
The San Diego march was part of a series of demonstrations held across the country, with rallies ranging from Lubbock, Texas, to Pittsburgh to Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.
Gail Gifford, a 67-year-oldNational City resident, held a cardboard sign that said, “Pro-choice, marching for Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” the late Supreme Court justice. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Gifford said, “we’re going to stay in the streets. We’re not going to stop. The ones that are going to suffer are the ones that are going to die from backyard abortions again.”
Earlier this month, a draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked, indicating a majority on the court would overturn 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision and side with a law passed in Mississippi that would ban almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the authenticity of the draft opinion but stressed that it may not be the court’s final decision and ordered an investigation to find out who released it.
“What will happen is the states will be in control of creating very restrictive laws and putting many, many bodies at health risk because abortions will still occur,” said Molly Terbovich-Ridenhour, executive board member of Women’s March San Diego, a progressive activist group that supports abortion rights. Abortions “will still take place, but they won’t happen in a safe atmosphere,” she added.
Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest sponsored the San Diego demonstration, with support from other nonprofits and political organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
“In California we do have a lot of protection for folks who are seeking abortion care, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a role elsewhere,” said Vernita Gutierrez, vice president of external affairs at Planned Parenthood. “For people from other states who travel to California, we want to make sure those folks have access to the care they need.”
Toni Marengo, an obstetrician-gynecologist and chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood, said rolling back Roe v. Wade may alter abortion access within the state.
“It will burden states like California because we are a beacon for reproductive freedom, but that’s going to affect the people in our own state that are trying to get their abortion because folks from other states are going to be coming in here,” Marengo said. “There could be a backlog, for sure.”
A group of about a dozen counter-protesters brought signs and chanted against abortion rights on the perimeter of the demonstration downtown. Some in the crowd approached them, chanting slogans back at them and trying to place abortion rights placards over the signs.
Later, as the march wrapped up, the two sides argued and some shoving ensued, but it did not escalate further.
“People, when they see these rallies, they think that’s the only thing young women think,” said Lili North, a San Diego State University student and member of Students for Life of America, an advocacy group opposed to abortion rights. “But that’s not true. There are so many young pro-lifers in this country who are willing to stand against abortion. The Supreme Court is about to overturn Roe v. Wade because young people like us actually care.”
Not far away, 15-year-old high school student Avery Lynas carried a sign reading, “Keep your laws out of my uterus.”
“A lot of my friends believe (Roe v. Wade) should not be overturned, they believe we have the rights to our own bodies and to get an abortion if we want or need an abortion for health care,” Lynas said. “It’s not going to be the same for other states, which is really concerning … We have to fight for those people, too.”
California is among at least 15 other states and the District of Columbia with laws on the books keeping abortion legal, regardless of what the Supreme Court rules in the Mississippi case. But Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and State Senate pro tem Toni Atkins have called for further codifying the right to an abortion via an amendment to state’s constitution.
That would require approval from two-thirds of lawmakers in both the Senate and the Assembly and then go to voters as a ballot measure.