Since Politico’s report that an initial draft majority opinion from the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) would overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 case where the court ruled that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion” was unconstitutional — protests have emerged across the country.
The reaction has given annual events like the Women’s March rally in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, May 14, a greater sense of urgency for the need to fight and protect a woman’s right to choose. Organizers of the Women’s March Foundation said there is no formal march through the city streets planned for Saturday.
Not only do organizers see the loss of protections under Roe v. Wade, but also those protections from the 1992 case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, where the court ruled restrictions on abortion were unconstitutional if they place an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus is viable.
Millions of people are expected to attend marches and rallies in 168 cities across the nation on Saturday to protest the pending decision by the court, which holds a 6-3 conservative majority. That decision is expected in late June or early July. The Women’s March Foundation will assist groups in other cities with their own events, but is primarily responsible for the LA event.
Women Can’t Be “Silent” On This Issue
Emiliana Guereca, executive director and a founder of the Women’s March Foundation, is unsure if the protests will ultimately change the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But she believes that doing nothing is not an option.
“If we are silent on this issue, then we’re done, we’ve lost,” Guereca said. “I think that part of protesting for us is making sure that, collectively, we are coming together to fight back. The Supreme Court should have no say when a woman chooses and decides to have children.”
Although Guereca said she wasn’t surprised with the Supreme Court’s opinion, she pointed out how the decision could lead to a slippery slope.
“If Roe v. Wade goes down … what are the next civil rights [to go]?” Guereca asked.
“Is it Brown v. Board of Education? Because we thought Roe was settled law, but the Supreme Court said it isn’t. So what is the path for our society and democracy?”
Guereca is an entrepreneur, having started and still owning several Los Angeles-based restaurants and an event production company — Ez Event Production.
She founded the Women’s March Foundation in 2016 after the presidential election of Donald Trump. Guereca said she was appalled by Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and his overall disrespect for women. She used those feelings as motivation to form the organization “with the goal of elevating women and driving up civic engagement.”
“I truly believe that I’m living the American Dream,” Guereca said. “My parents immigrated. I’m a [Mexican] immigrant. And I thought, ‘Wow, this is not the America I moved into.’”
Guereca organized a march that year in Los Angeles with a team of volunteers that she reached out to via social media.
“We didn’t have offices,” Guereca recounted. “We were in garages and parks organizing because volunteers that showed up came in numbers, and we’re all strangers and none of us knew each other.”
Despite the limitations, Guereca said she and her team put together that march in a month’s time by working 12 to 18 hours a day figuring out the logistics and recruiting speakers.
She remembers receiving countless emails the day before the rally was to take place asking her to cancel the event due to the rain forecast, but she refused.
The march went ahead as planned on a sunny Jan. 21, 2017. It was attended by an estimated 750,000 people and was part of the largest single-day protest in US history.
Guereca said she cried after it was over.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I had canceled,” Guereca said. “I felt support from the people but I also felt like there was a way to move forward with whatever the election results were, that there was a way for people to come together and that democracy would win.
“To me, there was hope on the streets.”
If the court reverses its previous rulings, Guereca said her foundation would start lobbying state legislators to restore abortion protections. A 2021 analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that 26 states are likely to ban abortions if Roe is overturned.
“The conservative justices were brought into the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said. “This court, to me, is tainted.”
Despite the number of COVID cases starting to rise again in LA County, the rally is going ahead as planned. Guereca is encouraging protesters to wear masks, but also said she is not afraid of the risk.
“This is a state of emergency for women,” Guereca said. “I’m willing to get COVID at a protest for a woman’s right to choose. I don’t think COVID should be stopping us; women’s lives are on the line.”
Rise Up 4 Abortion
Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights is another pro-choice organization participating in the rally. Skyler Soloman, one of its leading organizers, believes that it is possible for the Supreme Court’s opinion to change through continued public demonstrations.
“We’ve been hosting a series of rallies … sending the message that we have the power to save abortion rights,” Soloman said. “This draft is not law and we have the power to prevent it from becoming law — but only if we act swiftly and boldly and consistently.
“We’ve been out empowering people, dismantling the belief that they are powerless and just at the mercy of government, and allowing them to find their power in this fight and their ability to drive change. Seeing people find that within themselves has been so inspirational.”
Soloman said she had an abortion 10 years ago, but did not want to provide additional details. She did, however, express a desire to destigmatize abortions.
“This is a fundamental right, a constitutional right, and access to abortion and the ability to decide when to have a family is at the ground floor of gender equality,” she said. “This impacts marginalized communities at an even greater capacity, and I think all people should be fighting, regardless of gender or their experience, for abortion.”
Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights was formed in January this year after its founders felt that there was not enough action by other pro-choice organizations to stop anti-abortion bills, such as the Texas Heartbeat Act.
“[The founders] noticed a ‘theme’ of ‘we just need to prepare for a post-Roe world. We need to donate to abortion funds, spread the word about the abortion pill, and just hunker down for the long haul,’” Soloman said.
“That is rolling over to the government hijacking people’s bodies, their rights and their lives, and forcing them to have children against their will.”
The group formation, she said, was inspired by the Green Wave movement in Latin American countries like Argentina and Colombia, where abortion-rights activists donned green bandanas and handkerchiefs, and successfully pushed for the legalization of abortion.
Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights has grown significantly since it was founded, Soloman said, taking root in at least 33 cities across the country, such as Seattle, Cleveland and Chicago.
“We are calling on people nationwide to take bold and creative actions to spread the word about the abortion rights emergency, and to call people out in unified action on May 14,” she said.
She illustrated how dangerous limiting abortion access could be with two stories of 15-year-old girls — one who had the means to get an abortion and one who did not.
Soloman said one girl was able to schedule an appointment with Planned Parenthood and got a safe abortion. The other girl induced a miscarriage by ramming her lower abdomen into the corner of a countertop.
“That is the reality of what happens when people do not have access to a safe and legal abortion,” Soloman said. “They become so desperate that they are forced to take matters into their own hands and partake in some dangerous activities to try and induce their own abortions when it’s not easily accessible.”
Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights was one of several organizations that held pro-choice protests outside of churches this past weekend, particularly Catholic churches. This stems from the fact that four of the five Supreme Court justices that are part of the majority opinion to overturn Roe — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — are Catholic.
“Many of these church officials, these archbishops, are leading the charge in the anti-choice movement,” Soloman said. “The Archbishop in LA [José H. Gómez] was a major proponent for Biden not being able to take communion anymore for being pro-choice. It’s a deeply oppressive system that preaches female oppression, sexual repression and demonizes abortion.”
Dispelling Myths About Adoption as an Alternative
Julia Craciun — a child psychologist who works in North Hills for the Penny Lane Centers, a nonprofit organization that cares for foster youth — will attend the rally along with several of her friends.
Craciun coordinates a mental health program with at-risk kids and works with many foster children. She dismisses the notion that the mother could just give up their child for adoption, saying that the foster system is already falling behind on providing kids with loving homes.
In a 2020 report by the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 424,000 children are in foster care on any given day. Over 672,000 children spent time in the foster care in 2019, and about a third of children entering the system that year were people of color.
“I don’t hear any talk about resources,” Craciun said. “How do you help the woman? I don’t hear any of that. When people say this is about saving lives, it is not actually about saving lives. It’s about maintaining control of women’s bodies.”
Craciun has no children and said she has never had to contemplate getting an abortion. However, she does know people who have.
She said her mother had an illegal abortion at 19 years old in her home country of Romania; although it was legalized there in 1957, it was severely restricted from 1967 to 1990. Craciun also recounted how a friend got pregnant in college some years ago. When she took her friend to a Planned Parenthood facility in Orange County, people picketing outside called her friend a killer and a murderer.
It’s hard for Cracdiun avoid profanities when she talks about this issue.
“How many decades are we going to continue to talk about abortion?” she said. “I can’t believe in the height of the pandemic, from what I read, we’ve had more laws in this country on limiting abortion and setting restrictions on abortion. We should have been focusing on health care … [yet] we’ve set so many laws to ban abortion in this country.”
Although Craciun said she wouldn’t be surprised if the draft opinion does become law, she feels honored to be surrounded by women who are unafraid to speak their mind and take action to support abortion rights.
“I’m not anyone special,” Craciun said. “I’m just someone that believes in a woman’s right to choose and equality, and I will do whatever I can, however small.
“If they could take away the constitutional rights that were put in place almost 50 years ago, what’s next? This is a scary time and this would set a very horrible precedent in our society.”
The Women’s March rally begins at 10 a.m., in downtown Los Angeles. The rally location is at 200 North Spring St., in front of Los Angeles City Hall. Scheduled speakers include Rep. Karen Bass, California First Lady Jennifer Seibel Newsom, LA Councilmember Nury Martinez and attorney Gloria Allred. For more information, go to https://www.womensmarchfoundation.org/march-for-reproductive-rights.