Thousands Expected at Abortion Rights Demonstrations in California and Elsewhere

Joining protesters across the country, women’s rights activists marched in downtown Los Angeles and elsewhere across the state on Saturday as the US Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country.

Donna Troy Wangler was one of the few women gathered at the Los Angeles City Hall rally not carrying a sign proclaiming her views. But the Inland Empire high school teacher had a moving story to share about her daughter Lauren, who was born with Down syndrome and was six years old when she died.

“Some people seem to think it’s easy for moms like [me] have an abortion,” Wangler said. “I decided to stay with my son, and it was a traumatic burden to carry. But God, the love we shared changed my life forever.”

Holding up her cell phone, she gushed, “Here’s a photo of Lauren. Look how proud she is of herself!”

“So, I’m here today,” added Wangler, 53, “because I want the world to know that abortion is a woman’s choice. No one else’s.

The rally is one of hundreds taking place across the country, including Long Beach, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Palos Verdes and Santa Ana, as well as in San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, DC, New York, Chicago and Austin, Texas. .

Shante Young, 28, a project engineer for a construction company who lives in Costa Mesa, and her boyfriend Dylan Sanchez, 30, a retailer who lives in Whittier, sought shade under a tree in Grand Park as they listened to the voices of abortion rights advocates. blaring through the speakers from the stage in front of City Hall. A few feet away, anti-abortion protesters beat drums and used a megaphone to drown out the activists’ voices.

“If they start taking away women’s rights, they’re going to take away the right to vote,” Young said. “What’s next? It’s really scary.”

News helicopters flew overhead and hundreds of protesters around them applauded and cheered the speakers on stage. “The most important thing is to make our presence known,” Sánchez said. He, too, was concerned that the loss of the right to abortion heralded the loss of other rights. “I’m just worried about one thing changing into another, like a domino effect,” he said.

Betty Linville, 68, who lives in Koreatown, attended the rally with a friend, Anna Gladstone, 62, who lives in the Hollywood Hills.

“I have memories of women and men who fought for abortion rights 50 years ago,” Linville said. She said she was concerned that the “incredible freedom” of legal abortion was in jeopardy, especially for women who do not have the means to travel from a state where it is prohibited to one where it is allowed.

“What’s next?” Linville said. “What else is going to be removed?”

“This comes down to poor women who won’t have access to abortion travel,” Gladstone said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has laid out a plan for California to set aside $40 million for abortion providers to help cover uninsured residents and an expected influx of out-of-state women seeking care if the ruling is overturned.

The demonstrations come after Politico reported on May 2 that a draft opinion written by Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. indicated that a majority of the court would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, reversing his recognition of women’s constitutional right to access safe and legal abortions.

The Supreme Court confirmed the authenticity of the draft, but said the decision is not yet final. At least 26 states are expected to ban abortion if the precedent falls. California lawmakers, by contrast, have said they will ask voters in November to place permanent protections for the procedure in the state Constitution.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, could issue a final opinion in late June or early July.

Most Americans support abortion rights, up to a point. A major survey of 10,441 Americans by the Pew Research Center, conducted in March and released earlier this month, found that 61% of Americans said abortion should be legal all (19%) or most (42 %) of the time.

On the other hand, only 8% said that abortion should be illegal in all cases, while another 29% said that it should be illegal in most cases or with some exceptions. Those results are consistent with a number of other abortion opinion polls.

Kim O’Kelly, 52, a makeup artist, and her friend Kelly Sweeney, 54, a personal assistant, attended the Los Angeles City Hall protest from their Burbank homes, each picking up a green sign as they arrived: “Stop the Supreme”. The Court takes away the right to abortion!”

“We fear that Roe vs. Wade is revoked, and we’re not going to take it idly, we’re going to fight for it,” O’Kelly said.

Sweeney said older men who use their power to curb abortion rights don’t appreciate the different circumstances that can lead a woman to terminate a pregnancy. She raised the possibility that a 14-year-old girl who has been raped might be forced to drive to Mexico for an abortion, saying those who threaten abortion rights lack empathy for those people.

“It is never considered,” he said. “It should be safe for everyone.”

Ellen Lee, 29, waved a sign that read: “I am not a glass of servile meat.”

“This is a phrase I’ve said to so many men in my life,” said Lee, an architectural analyst who lives in El Monte. On his tank top was a button that said “We are the Resistance” that featured Princess Leia from “Star Wars.”

Lee described the protest as a major show of force that can bring about change. “There is power in numbers, and we have the numbers,” he said. “I really believe in the power of a group.”

Lee was shocked by the Supreme Court’s draft ruling, but also inspired to fight back. “It’s the kind of internal feeling that you’re living through a dystopian nightmare, but it’s also very motivating,” he said.

Standing next to her, listening to the speakers, was her mother, Linda Lee, 59, a physician assistant who also lives in El Monte and carried a sign that read, “Not my daughter, bitch!” She carried the same banner at the Women’s March after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president.

“It’s really scary,” the elder Lee said, expressing concern that LGBTQ rights and the right to racially mixed marriages could be threatened once Roe vs. Wade. “If they get away with that, then they’re going to keep getting more,” he said.

Then came Rep. Maxine Waters, one of several speakers that included Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Karen Bass. Shortly after that, many in the crowd joined the performers on stage to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

Among the legions of volunteers at the protest was Elizabeth Folio, a veteran activist whose job it was to hand out free posters from a sweltering sidewalk with a bird’s-eye view of the event. She could barely keep up with the demand.

That was because, he said, “things have changed. Serious concern about these issues has turned to anger.”

Nodding appreciatively to the crowd, he said, “There are more men involved as well.”

“People understand that abortion is going nowhere,” he added. “Defeating Roe will only eliminate safe abortion. That’s something people didn’t want to talk about before. But they are now.”

Times staff writers David Lauter and Melody Gutierrez contributed to this report.

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