A number of Orange County politicians and pro-choice activists and community members were rallying Tuesday, after a draft Supreme Court opinion reportedly leaked to a news organization presented a legal case for overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion.
Under the social media banner #BansOffOurBodies, pro-abortion rights groups organized a series of “rapid response” rallies Tuesday at federal courthouses across the nation, including the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Santa Ana.
A larger rally is being planned for May 14 at Santa Ana’s Centennial Regional Park at 10 a.m.
Sadaf Rahmani, who oversees public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, said the organization had been working to raise awareness about the potential vulnerability of Roe vs. Wade in the hands of a conservative-majority Supreme Court when news of the leak broke Monday.
Although the purported opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito is only a draft, Rahmani said the thought that the highest court in the nation could be positioned to completely overturn legal precedent was startling.
“We were really trying to build that urgency and awareness to activate and build a movement around this before the Supreme Court decision,” Rahmani said Tuesday. “We were anticipating this, but it was no less shocking to see how divisive and extreme the draft opinion was.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has spoken publicly about increasing abortion protections for women statewide, but a reversal of the landmark ruling could potentially impact millions of women across the country.
State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) and Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) — who represent communities in Orange County — vowed Tuesday to support legislation that would protect and expand reproductive rights.
“This leaked decision makes clear the majority’s intent to not only overturn Roe vs. Wade but also to go after the accompanying rights of privacy and due process that are at the heart of contraception access, LGBTQIA+ rights, interracial marriage and many other fundamental rights we take for granted today,” Min said in a statement from Sacramento.
“We in California will fight against this massive intrusion into our private lives.”
Petrie-Norris said despite the 49th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade in January, she and others were anticipating some sort of legal challenge.
“I’m horrified by what a decision like this means for millions of American women. And I’m more determined than ever to protect reproductive freedom in California,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Bishops Kevin Vann, Thanh Thai Nguyen and Timothy Freyer, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, said they would await the official decision of the court before commenting specifically on the matter. In the meantime, they urged Catholics and people of faith to “pray, learn and advocate for practices and policies that lead to better futures” for women, children and families.
“We commit to a vision for California that honors women, giving them life-affirming support and practical resources so that all families can thrive, and so that no woman feels trapped into the devastating decision to end a life by abortion,” they said in a joint statement.
For Costa Mesa resident Flo Martin, however the battle is a personal one. She was 27 years old in 1969 with a husband and two small sons when she became pregnant for a third time.
“My husband was the only [wage] earner, and we were renting a small house on the west side of Costa Mesa,” Martin recalled. “We were struggling as a family, so my husband and I both decided — it was our choice, not just my choice — to abort.”
She called her doctor and Hoag Hospital, who informed her they would not terminate her pregnancy. So, Martin turned to her mother, who’d once confessed to her she’d had an abortion in Germany when Martin was just 1 and knew someone she could call.
Martin went with her husband and sons to a Bulgarian doctor in Los Angeles on a Saturday, when the office was closed, where she underwent the procedure. For more than a week, as she bled and her body healed, she wept for the loss.
“I felt like a criminal,” she said. “I did not share news of my abortion with anyone, except my mom. It was shameful at the time because it was a crime.”
Today, Martin is speaking up about her experience. A self-proclaimed “cage rattler” and a board member for the Costa Mesa Democratic Club, she is exorcising her anguish at the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion by campaigning for elected officials who will protect women’s rights.
“That’s how we make a difference,” she said.
Rahmani said nearly one in four women in America has had an abortion. She encouraged those like Martin to share their personal stories and to engage in events and the campaigns of politicians who will support reproductive freedoms.
“We’re not going to sit silently by and allow the Supreme Court to strip our rights,” she said. “An attack on one state is an attack on all of us — we’re in this fight.”