About 100 pro-life supporters rallied in Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square on Sunday to mark the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
It was a mellow gathering for a decades-old movement that organizer Dean Davis of Sonoma County Prolife acknowledged is aging.
"Our leadership is graying at the temples," Davis told the gathering. He said there's a need for more youth to step forward, while lamenting that most of the group's members are over 50, with many in their sixties and seventies. That, he said, has left them feeling a little like salmon swimming upstream.
But the event did draw some young people. One of the speakers was a 17-year-old Kenwood girl who identified herself only as Rebekah C, an adoptee who said she learned this year that her birth mother had considered aborting her.
"When it first became clear that my birth mother had conceived, abortion was immediately recommended by her family and the medical practice... Let me tell you, that stings. I cannot convey how deeply that saddens me, and how often I struggle with fears of inadequacy or of further rejection. However, I was not a mistake," she said.
Angela Lorbeer, an 18-year-old student at Santa Rosa Junior College, took a seat near the stage and said she opposes anything she sees as a taking of life, including the death penalty.
"I think abortion is one of the worst," she said, "because it targets those who are most vulnerable."
Sonoma County Prolife has been holding similar rallies at different spots in Sonoma County for more than 30 years as part of a national "Sanctity of Human Life Day" proclaimed by President Reagan in 1984. They say they have a mailing list of 600 and a steering committee of six people.
""We know it's going to be a hard protracted fight," said Lawrence Lehr, a Santa Rosa insurance company owner and longtime local Prolife leader. He likened the anti-abortion movement to previous movements from abolition to civil rights.
Nonetheless, Lehr claimed in a rallying speech that the movement is "halfway to our goal of reestablishing a social and legal right to life for the vulnerable, so the glass is half full."
"There were more laws passed in 2013 at the state level restricting abortion access than any other year since 1973," he said.
Members of the Sonoma County National Organization for Women will hold their own Roe v. Wade anniversary gathering Friday with a quiet dinner Gary Chu's Restaurant in Santa Rosa.
"We literally thought it was over 40 years ago. So we're astonished we're still fighting it. But we're in it in every state," said Anne Ageson, 69, a retired U.C. Berkeley lecturer and co-coordinator of the group.
"People think California is immune, but every year another proposition is on the ballot that in some way would reduce access for women."
She said N.O.W also has an older demographic. But she attributed it to a difference in how young people organize.
"There are very committed (young women) to pro choice, but they don't join organizations. They do everything through social media. They don't pay dues, and they don't come to meetings."