LOS ANGELES — As news of the Supreme Court’s decision to end constitutional protections for abortion spread Friday morning, many in Southern California responded with a simple question: Where do we protest?
The overturning of the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling will not hinder reproductive health access in California, where abortion will continue to be protected under state law. The state’s Democratic lawmakers quickly moved to add to those protections; Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that immediately protects abortion providers in California from liability when caring for patients travelling from states where the procedure is now banned or access is narrowed.
Twenty-six states will ban all, or nearly all, abortions now that Roe has been overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive health and abortion rights.
The first Los Angeles crowds began to gather around noon outside a federal courthouse downtown.
Standing with the growing crowd, Francisca Romero, a 25-year-old actress originally from Uruguay, described the Supreme Court decision as a tipping point in the country.
The green bandana tied around her neck was similar to the ones worn by women’s rights activists in Mexico and Argentina when they fought for abortion rights, she said. Other volunteers and organizers wore their own green bandanas printed with the words “Overturn Roe? Hell no!”
“To me it feels like we’re going back in time,” Romero said. She couldn’t believe this moment was happening in the United States.
The crowd outside the courthouse quickly grew to more than 100 people, then more than 200. Inside the federal court building, security officers directed departing jurors to use the building’s back exits.
Rebecca Hairston, 38, of Hollywood, said she woke up in “devastation” that a right she grew up with would no longer be protected nationwide.
“I never thought I would have to protest for abortion rights at my age,” she said. “I grew up knowing that I had the option — I grew up knowing that if I needed it, it was there.”
Now, she says, she’s “heartbroken” for young Americans who won’t grow up with the same protections.
“This is a point we can either mobilize and come together and say, ‘Enough is enough. We won’t stand for it.’ Or we’re going to sit back and be complacent to violence,” said Becca Waite, a 34-year-old organizer with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights and a travelling emergency room nurse currently working in Orange County.
For Denise Meyer, 78, a retired educator clad in a “Bans Off My Body” T-shirt, Friday’s decision was a portal back in time to just after she graduated high school in Long Beach. She recalled her experience helping a pregnant teenage friend seek an abortion in the days before Roe.
“I asked around, asked my friends, and I found someone who could take her to Mexico. And we drove to Mexico for an illegal abortion, and it was a horrendous experience,” Meyer said. “I would never wish that on anybody.”
“People are going to have abortions whether it’s legal or not,” Meyer said.
For several minutes outside the federal courthouse, speakers shared why they were there. One person encouraged churchgoers to challenge their fellow Christians. Another urged people to protest and donate to help women and non-binary people access abortions.
Liseth De Leon, 23, spoke up publicly for the first time about the abortion she had just two weeks ago. The decision Friday morning from the Supreme Court made her angry.
“What if I was a different person born in a different state?” she told the audience. “I found so much strength and peace in the fact that I was able to have a choice. Because I knew I wasn’t ready.”
A resident of South Central Los Angeles, De Leon said she felt she couldn’t provide for a child. When she sought an abortion, she told only a cousin and friend.
In sharing her story, De Leon said she wanted others to know they weren’t alone.
Lux Dehm, 14, said she attended the protest because she wanted to do something for the women in states where abortion is now illegal.
“I feel useless doing anything else,” Dehm said. “And this is like the only thing you can do right now. I’m just here to support other states and try to make a change.”
(Staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.)
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