A few hundred people gathered in Laguna Beach to protest a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision — the 1973 case that expanded women’s rights to include the option to have an abortion — one that did not seem to surprise abortion advocates but still sent shockwaves that reverberated from coast to coast.
A vocal contingent piling onto the lawn in front of the Main Beach lifeguard tower on Friday, far outnumbering the people still on the sand on an early summer evening.
August Davis, 18, of Los Angeles said the size of the crowd surprised her in what she viewed to be a more conservative part of California. The moment was “bittersweet” for her given what had resulted in the gathering.
“It was really upsetting,” Davis said of learning the news Friday morning. “I didn’t fully process it, and I wasn’t fully shocked because of the leaked documents. The reaction that I had was muted because of the leaked documents that had come out prior. But with the whole situation, it’s just been extremely shocking and really disappointing to see us regress so much in the government recently.”
Signage at the event supported bodily autonomy for women, and some of the signs were critical of the Supreme Court justices who had voted in the majority.
“It’s been scary because I think a lot of people don’t realize it’s not just abortion,” said Laguna Niguel resident Katy Atchity, who attended the protest with her boyfriend. “It’s also a woman’s right to privacy when it comes to medical things, so it’s really scary being a 19-year-old woman in this world right now.”
Across the nation, demonstrators took to the streets to protest the decision, which overruled a half century of national policy granting women the right to choose.
The power to define policy related to abortion will reside with the states. In Orange County, liberal politicians vowed that the law would continue to support women’s reproductive freedoms.
“The Supreme Court’s opinion is out of touch with mainstream America,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley wrote in a statement. “It opens the door for the courts to overturn same-sex marriage, access to contraception, and the fundamental right to privacy, even reaching into your digital privacy. At least one Justice, [Clarence] Thomas, supports reaching back into cases relying on Roe vs. Wade and [Planned Parenthood vs.] Casey to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure Orange County remains a safe place for women seeking reproductive care and work to prevent government intrusion of our personal liberties.”
While he was disappointed to see the Court’s ruling, Jon Dunn, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood for Orange and San Bernardino Counties, said the appointment of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett had made it seem like a foregone conclusion, one that was foreshadowed by a leak of the Court’s majority opinion.
Dunn said he anticipates the ruling will lead to abortions being unavailable in at least half the states in the nation, but he added the organization will welcome patients from any state and will not turn away anyone regardless of their ability to pay.
“We’re expecting an influx of patients traveling here from other states to get the abortion care they need at our health centers,” Dunn said. “We’ve created something we call the abortion aid program to increase abortion access at all of our health centers, and we’re prepared to help patients with logistics and travel assistance as needed, as well as with the care they need.”
In addition to the rally in Laguna Beach, the local Planned Parenthood had scheduled similar demonstrations protesting the decision in Fullerton, Irvine, Ontario, Redlands and Victorville Friday evening.
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops referred to the decision in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case as affirmation of its pro-life beliefs and that “states have a compelling interest to protect the unborn and limit abortion.”
“The Dobbs ruling is a brightly shining ray of light and hope in the war on the sanctity of life, but the battle and the work are far from over,” the California Catholic Conference of Bishops said in its statement. “Extreme abortion-expanding legislation is working its way through the Capitol, and the governor has promised to enshrine abortion into the state constitution.
“The state is compounding its efforts to make abortion affordable, accessible and convenient without any talk of equitable services for women who look forward to their child’s birth or for those who are already mothers. Such a stance will make ending a life easy but keeping one more difficult.”
State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-74) said the Court’s decision “cast aside” 50 years of precedent and progress. She said waking up to the news left her in tears, but she added that California could remain a beacon of hope by fighting back.
“There’s been a hell of a lot of bad news coming out of the Supreme Court, and certainly today,” Petrie-Norris, a Laguna Beach resident, said. “I think that the good news, if there is any, is that California, we did see this coming, and we have been preparing. The Women’s Caucus earlier this year, we introduced a package of 14 bills, and our reproductive freedom package includes laws that will help protect and expand women’s reproductive freedoms here in California and for women all across the country.”
Requests for comment on the Supreme Court ruling from the offices of U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel and state Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen were not immediately returned.