More than 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of downtown San Francisco on Tuesday in opposition to the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that suggests justices will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed the federal constitutional right to an abortion.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, 26 states could immediately ban or severely limit abortions — making California the closest no-ban state within driving distance for millions of people.
Many at Tuesday’s action expressed their solidarity with those who may lose access to abortions.
“I can understand the safety and feeling of comfort that comes with living in a state like California,” said Caroline Hannon, a 31-year-old San Francisco resident who has worked in organizing efforts to make abortions more widely available across the country.
“But it’s not enough to just rest on that comfort and allow people all over the country to really be slammed back to the dark ages with [the] reversal of Roe v. Wade.”
Others at Tuesday’s protest shared their anxiety about what legal precedents the high court’s draft opinion could establish.
“What’s to come? Is same-sex marriage next? Is interracial marriage next? If women’s rights are at stake, then everyone’s rights are at stake,” said Jordan Elliott, a 23-year-old San Francisco resident.
Michelle Whitney, also a 23-year-old San Francisco resident, questioned why abortion rights was a focus for the government when there are other issues of major concern.
“Why are we focusing on this?” asked Whitney. “There are so many other things that need to be worked on: climate change, the poor, I don’t even know where to begin. But the fact that we’re attacking women’s rights is just ridiculous in my eyes.”
Before the march began, protesters gathered outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue, where politicians like California Attorney General Rob Bonta and San Francisco Mayor London Breed also expressed their opposition to the draft opinion.
State officials also are pushing to make California a “sanctuary” for out-of-state patients seeking abortion, including helping cover the cost of the procedure, transportation, lodging, child care, food and lost wages.
Shannon Olivieri Hovis, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told KQED in an interview earlier Tuesday how overturning Roe v. Wade could affect California and have larger implications for women and pregnant people around the country.
“The reality is that if the right to legal abortion falls in more than half of the United States, millions and millions of women and pregnant people are going to find themselves in need of care and they are going to be searching and seeking out states like ours that can provide these safe havens for them to access that care,” said Hovis.
According to Hovis, California already has seen a significant increase in out-of-state abortion patients — and those who cannot afford to travel outside states with abortion restrictions may be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. She says the state must ramp up providing practical, direct support to patients seeking abortion care by fixing cost barriers, ensuring that California’s provider shortage is addressed and having legal protections in place for anybody who would help somebody access abortion care.
“We’ve been able to provide care for Californians,” she said. “And now we have to be prepared to provide care for anyone throughout the country who may need to access care within our state.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic leaders of the state Legislature have announced plans to introduce an amendment “to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution so that there is no doubt as to the right to abortion in this state.”
Laura Jiménez, head of the nonprofit California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, told KQED in an interview Tuesday that the Supreme Court potentially overturning the constitutional right to an abortion would increase the wait times for Californians seeking access to care as well as intensify the need for more funding and providers.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, 26 states could immediately ban or severely limit abortions — and that would make California the closest no-ban state within driving distance for as many as 1.4 million people, a nearly 3,000% increase from current levels, according to abortion-rights supporter Guttmacher Institute.
For Jiménez, keeping the Latino population informed is a major focus.
“Once you hear that this draft of a decision is out there, people start to get scared and don’t even try to seek the services they need,” said Jiménez. “So I think that having the correct information provided to folks in Spanish and English and other languages that other communities need is really important.”
Jiménez says California Latinas for Reproductive Justice is coordinating efforts with their partners at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, who have been working in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Along all those western border checkpoints, folks that are maybe Latino, maybe undocumented, will have difficulty even attempting to get to another place for an abortion,” said Jiménez. “That’s important because it has implications on what we’re doing with immigration law.”
This story includes reporting from KQED’s Spencer Whitney, Keith Mizuguchi, Natalia Navarro, Alex Emslie and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí.