Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in San Diego and across Southern California Saturday as part of a nationwide effort to show support for abortion rights.
The protests came as the U.S. Supreme Court is apparently poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
In San Diego, marchers gathered on both side of Broadway, at the downtown Hall of Justice and near the federal courthouse, brandishing signs with slogans such as “No choice? No peace!” and “Welcome to California, Where Abortion is Safe and Still Legal.”
“What a beautiful day to be out here fighting yet again for our reproductive rights,” said attorney Mehry Mohseni, at the rally that preceded the march.
The marchers prepared to set out as a smattering of counter protesters stood on a median on Broadway and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!” and “Pro-life, pro-women.”
The Women’s March Foundation organized the “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies in San Diego, outside Los Angeles City Hall, in Riverside and throughout the region.
Speakers at the L.A. event included Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California and Reps. Karen Bass and Maxine Waters, both Los Angeles Democrats.
“LA is for women, and we are a sanctuary,” Garcetti said.
Rallies were planned across the U.S. Saturday, including several around the Los Angeles area, including Pasadena, Long Beach and Catalina Island.
In Orange County, a few thousand people turned out in Santa Ana. Speakers included Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine.
Concurrently, the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights had protest rallies scheduled for 41 U.S. cities, including two in Los Angeles and one in Orange County.
The Rise Up rallies included a march to join nearby “Bans Off Our Bodies” events, and were scheduled for the U.S. Courthouse in downtown L.A., Centennial Regional Park in Santa Ana and Venice Beach.
The rallies, which had been planned for months, gained a new sense of urgency at the beginning of May following a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that revealed the court’s vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
That ruling is not yet final, but is expected to be handed down in the next month or two.
A CNN poll in January found that just 30% of Americans supported the Supreme Court completely overturning Roe v. Wade, while 69% opposed it.
CNN reported that the poll’s finding was consistent with other recent polls and historical trends. The network also noted that since it began polling in 1989, public support for completely overturning Roe has never risen above 36%.
Roe v. Wade guarantees abortion rights throughout the nation until a fetus is viable, typically between 22 and 24 weeks. Overturning the decision would strip away federal protection of abortion rights, and leave it up to individual states to set abortion policy.
Famously liberal California is unlikely to take steps to ban or limit access to abortion, and discussions have been under way about making the state a safe haven for women across the country to pursue reproductive health care.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood have offered their support for creating a constitutional amendment in California to guarantee the right to abortion in the state.
Newsom also has proposed expanding access to abortion services, including covering uncompensated care for people who don’t have insurance that covers the procedure.
The pending Supreme Court decision stems from the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In a challenge to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Mississippi passed a law in 2018 prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.