Santa Cruzans react quickly to threat of Roe v. Wade overturning

The crowd outside the downtown Santa Cruz courthouse Tuesday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

On six hours’ notice, more than 200 people met at the Santa Cruz county courthouse Tuesday, protesting fast-moving restrictions across the country on abortion access — and the news that the U.S. Supreme Court is about to strike down the decision that has assured a women’s right to choose for 49 years.

Late Tuesday afternoon, more than 200 Santa Cruzans gathered to protest coming restrictions on abortion access in many states across the country. Outside the Superior Court of Santa Cruz downtown, seven speakers spoke to a crowd that ranged in age from children to those who remembered when abortion was previously illegal.

The crowd’s fury followed Monday’s leaked Supreme Court draft majority opinion, which outlined a decision to strike down the landmark, 49-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, which provides a national right to abortion access and a woman’s right to choose. Written by Justice Samuel Alito, the draft opinion shows the aim of five justices — Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — to strike down the 1973 decision, long cited as legal precedent, and a subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Politico first reported the draft opinion and the story has both buoyed right-to-life activists, who have long sought such a reversal, and mobilize major opposition.

“I am fuming with rage — are you fuming with rage?” Gail Pellerin shouted into the mike. Pellerin, the longtime county clerk and current candidate for the State Assembly, noted her role as both a former Planned Parenthood board member and someone who’s had an abortion.

“I cannot believe we’re still fighting this thing that our grandparents won already! Reproductive rights are human rights,” she said. “Make no mistake, this is a war against those of us with a uterus.”

Cynthia Mathews — who launched the Santa Cruz chapter of Planned Parenthood from her kitchen table in 1971 — said she impressed by the turnout on just six hours of planning. While she acknowledged that the leaked draft opinion has yet to be finalized, she explained what the ramifications will be when that happens sometime in the next several months.

The crowd outside the downtown Santa Cruz courthouse Tuesday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“Over half the states in the country are ready to fall — this is a call to action,” she said, a reference to as many as 26 states set to impose abortion bans. “It’s not going to be a quick win … it’s discouraging, but it’s not over.”

In the months ahead, expect reaction locally, at the state level and nationally.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his intention to have the Senate vote on codifying Roe v. Wade’s right-to-choose protection into law. Requiring 60 votes to overcome a blocking filibuster makes passage unlikely, though.

On March 22, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had announced his intention to make the state an “abortion sanctuary,” signing into law to make abortions more affordable for individuals on private insurance plans. After Monday’s leak, he said California will not be idle in reaction: “We are going to fight like hell.”

The crowd outside the downtown Santa Cruz courthouse Tuesday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)