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 are we protesting?
The destruction of the historic Roe vs. Wade ruling of 1973 will not hinder access to reproductive health care in California, where abortion remains protected by state law. The state’s Democratic legislators were quick to add that protection; Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that will immediately protect California abortion providers from liability when caring for patients traveling from states where the procedure is now banned or where access is restricted.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive health and abortion rights, 26 states will ban all or nearly all abortions now that Roe is reversed.
The first crowds in Los Angeles began gathering in front of a federal courthouse downtown around noon.
In addition to the growing crowd, Francisca Romero, a 25-year-old actress who is 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 one 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? No way!”
“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 courthouse, security officers ordered the departing jurors to use the building’s rear exits.
Rebecca Hairston, 38, of Hollywood, said she woke up “devastated” 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 I had the option — I grew up knowing that if I needed it, it was there.”
Now, she says, she is “heartbroken” for young Americans who will not grow up with the same protections.
“This is a point that 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 about violence,” said Becca Waite, a 34-year-old organizer with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights and a traveling emergency room nurse who currently works in Orange County.
For Denise Meyer, 78, a retired schoolteacher dressed in a “Bans Off My Body” T-shirt, Friday’s decision was a portal back to just after she graduated high school in Long Beach. She recalled her experience helping a pregnant teenage friend have 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 horrible experience,” Meyer said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
“People will have abortions whether it’s legal or not,” Meyer said.
For several minutes outside the federal courthouse, speakers explained why they were there. One person encouraged churchgoers to challenge their fellow Christians. Another urged people to protest and donate to give women and non-binary people access to abortions.
Liseth De Leon, 23, spoke publicly for the first time about the abortion she had two weeks ago. Friday morning’s decision of the Supreme Court angered her.
“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 could choose. Because I knew I wasn’t ready yet.”
De Leon, a resident of South Central Los Angeles, said she felt she couldn’t care for a child. When she sought an abortion, she only told a cousin and a friend.
When sharing her story, De Leon said she wanted others to know they were not 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 all you can do right now. I’m just here to support other states and try to change something.”
(Staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.)
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