A crowd of about 400, many of them young women, gathered at the intersection of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard on Saturday to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Roe v. Wade had previously secured women’s abortion rights, but was struck down in a 5-4 decision on Friday, paving the way for individual states to make their own decisions on whether to ban or restrict abortion.
There were no apparent counter-protesters present, aside from one vehicle that occasionally passed by with signs of disapproval. Support from honking vehicles was consistent throughout the course of the protest.
Many high school students were in attendance including Cate Hindman, a Saugus High student, who said there’s something in particular that pains her about the Supreme Court’s decision.
“It’s… absolutely heartbreaking for me to know that I have no right to my body anymore and the people that are coming into our school and murdering us with these illegal weapons and these assault rifles are having more rights with their guns, these material objects, than we are with our own physical bodies,” said Hindman. “And it’s truly heartbreaking and I will spend all of my life if I have to fighting for these rights.”
The event was organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Democrats and featured Christy Smith, former state assemblywoman current congressional candidate, as its keynote speaker.
“This is the fight of our lifetime,” said Smith. “We are surrounded today by incredible young people, who will inherit an America that is the most diverse in our history and I will be damned if I leave them with fewer rights than I had when I grew up as a young proud American.”
Smith’s opponent in the campaign for the 27th Congressional District, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, issued a statement on Friday saying the ruling actually changes nothing in California, as abortion is still legal in the state “up to the point of fetal viability.”
“As are with many issues, each state in the Union has its own laws. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in overturning the past rulings of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey that the legality of abortions should be handed down to the states,” the statement said. “Now, the states will decide what is best for their citizens. This is an issue of federalism as is laid out in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution that the powers not delegated to the federal government are thereby delegated to the state government, and on down. The only thing that the Supreme Court determined today is that the constitutional path to legislate on this issue is now at the state level.”
Andrew Taban, chair of SCV Democrats, said voter registration and voter turnout are part of the strategy to combat the Supreme Court’s decision, but that this issue transcends party lines.
“We outnumber Republicans by voter registration and by no party preference, and I think this crosses all party boundaries,” said Taban. “This is about the right to your reproductive health and your right to privacy in this country and we’re slowly seeing that being stripped away by the Republicans.”
Taban elaborated by saying that Democrats are not just concerned by this decision, but also issues the Supreme Court is planning to rule on in the future — such as same-sex marriages and access to contraceptives. This sentiment was echoed by many in attendance.
Donna, a Santa Clarita resident, said that as an older woman, she was disappointed that the rights she had for most of her life were now unavailable for the next generation of women.
“I’m absolutely devastated as a woman in her 60s that came from this era, [where] we have equality and safety and the ability to go to work and not worrying about somebody raping me or taking advantage of me unknowingly and me paying [for] the results, paying [for] the consequences,” said Donna. “What scares me more than this is their next step, because they’re not stopping. They’re gonna come after contraception…They will keep on coming after people. We have to unite.”
Many protesters called the overturning of Roe v. Wade a “gut-punch” and said that although it was not a surprise following the leak of a draft of the Supreme Court ruling in May, it was still infuriating.
Valerie Goymerac said she was there to send a message and to let people know they were not going to stop voicing their opposition until things change.
“As young women in America we want to have the right to choose what we want to choose in life and choose what we love and choose what we do with our bodies,” said Goymerac. “I think that it’s so heartwarming and exciting to see people out here supporting, because we need that. We need support.”
Robin Williams, a woman in her 70s who was in attendance, said that she does not believe the U.S. is heading in the right direction, although was happy women her age were there to show support.
“Actually, I think it’s inspiring [that] not only so many young women are in attendance [but] also so many older women,” said Williams. “We’re not the ones that it’s affecting. It’s affecting our families, our friends, our friends’ children, our grandchildren, their children.”
Williams also said that it was important that so many men had shown up in support of their cause.
Greg Owen said he believes the overturning of Roe v. Wade was wrong and unconstitutional and that it was especially difficult to see the effect it was having on the women in his life.
“I have daughters and I have a wife. And since this came out they’ve literally been sobbing and so emotional and so disappointed and angry at the same time. And I don’t know what to tell them or how to console them,” said Owen.
Owen also said he would continue for the rest of his life, in any way that he can, to help women.
Carole Lutness, an 80-year-old woman attending the protest, told a story that detailed why she felt access to abortions was important. In Lutness’ freshman year of college in 1959, she witnessed an ambulance transporting one of her classmates who had given herself an abortion with a coat hanger. Her classmate nearly died and was subsequently shamed and rejected by her family.
“We all just lived in terror,” said Lutness.
Many people in attendance used the image of a coat hanger as a sign of their support of abortion rights.
Angela Bennett, president and CEO of the SCV Pregnancy Center (a health care center that provides ultrasounds, pregnancy testing, and information regarding reproductive health), did not address the protest outright when asked for a statement on Monday, but did say that she was happy to be serving the SCV.
“This is America. It’s a great country and that we here at the center have served hundreds and hundreds of women every year since (19)87,” said Bennett. “We are going to continue providing services and serving women here in our valley.”
Taban said the diversity and size of the crowd was a good indicator of how the community feels about this matter.
“I think this is a good representation of where our community is,” said Taban. “That we’re not willing to lose our rights and we have a mix of all parties here as well today, so I think it’s a pretty good signal as to where we are headed and what we expect from our representatives.”