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Protests across Sonoma County focus on Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade

A group of pro-choice supporters gathered Tuesday evening at Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa.|

If the U.S. Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade and allows individual states to set their own right-to-life laws, abortion would likely remain legal in California.

But the impact would still roil the state.

California could see a 3,000% increase in the number of women coming to the state to seek an abortion, which could overwhelm the state’s reproductive health care system, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York that is committed to advancing international sexual and reproductive health and rights.

On Monday, a leaked draft of a preliminary Supreme Court opinion indicated that at least five of the court’s justices agree that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Across the country, 26 states, including Idaho, Utah and Arizona, have OK’d abortion bans or are considering legislation to end the practice within their borders.

Under California law, abortion is legal. And because that is unlikely to change it could prompt a significant increase in the number of women who head to California from states where abortion has been or could be outlawed, experts say.

In reaction to the leaked draft, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday night that he would join with the Democratic leaders of California’s Senate and the Assembly to advance an amendment that would “enshrine the right to choose in the California constitution.”

“We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution. Women will remain protected here,” Newsom said, in a joint statement with Sen. Toni G. Atkins, the Senate president pro tempore, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

“If this happens, it is safe to assume that Californians will be impacted in their ability to access timely care,” said Gilda Gonzales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Northern California.

She said the regional Planned Parenthood is doing everything in its ability to minimize the impact to Northern Californians, while also being able to accommodate anyone who comes to them for help.

Gonzales pointed to a CNN poll in January that indicated a majority of Americans want their individual state to have laws that are more permissive than restrictive should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

“So this is a moment to not be in denial, and take the necessary action,” Gonzales said. Register to vote and “vote for people who are champions for reproductive freedom,“ she said.

Sonoma County Democratic Party Chair Pat Sabo said she wasn’t necessarily surprised by the draft opinion, given the number of conservative judges who’ve been appointed to the Supreme Court in recent years, nevertheless “it’s extremely upsetting.”

“I hope this is an eye-opener to Americans to recognize how important their vote is,” she said. “Never take anything for granted.”

Reacting to the reports Monday evening, Katrina Phillips, chair of the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights, also worried about what this might mean moving forward.

“I’m not trying to be dramatic, this is all-out war and this is not just about abortion,” she said. “This is about medical rights for all citizens of the United States.

“When the government can control you medically, it can control your whole life,” Phillips said, adding “...if the people of Sonoma (County) can’t see that this is how the government is trying to control our bodies, our lives and our souls, and they won’t stand up and fight this, then I don’t know what to do.”

Advocacy groups such as Indivisible for Sonoma County and the National Organization for Women Sonoma County planned rallies Tuesday evening in downtown Santa Rosa and in Sebastopol to publicly object to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft, which was authenticated earlier in the day by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Sabre Briere, founding member of Indivisible For All Sonoma County, worries that if Roe v. Wade is overturned other privacy rights might soon fall.

“Decisions by the Supreme Court rely on each other,” she said Tuesday. “Roe v. Wade rests on other decisions having to do with privacy. If Roe v. Wade falls, all of the other rights that are not enumerated in the (U.S.) Constitution are at risk,” such as the right to use or buy contraceptives.

“Or, you may have to ask your spouse or your parents for permission,” she added.

A group of pro-choice supporters gathered Tuesday evening at the Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. They held up signs and encouraged passing motorists to honk if they objected to the nullification of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s time to fight,” said Katie Watts, 44, of Santa Rosa amid the din of honking horns, cheering, barking dogs and the sound of someone playing a tuba. “I can’t believe this is happening in my lifetime.”

Becky Montgomery, 79, of Santa Rosa held a sign that said “Don’t Force a 12-year-old To Give Birth.” She said years ago she recalled counseling a teen mother, who already had two babies.

“I knew she was going to have a hard life. When they talk about protecting lives, they forget about these stories,” she said. “Whose lives are they protecting?”

After news of the draft opinion broke Monday, a number of local politicians, including state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, offered messages of support.

“Today’s news is horrifying,” McGuire wrote on Twitter. “Reproductive rights are under attack. We will not go backwards. We will not back down. California will always defend reproductive freedom. ”

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, pushed for the U.S. Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to send to President Joe Biden “to protect access to safe abortion care and save lives.”

Rep Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, wrote on Twitter that overturning Roe v. Wade “would have devastating consequences for all women... I am outraged and you should be too.”

Across the state, abortion rights advocates were urging people to support local Planned Parenthood affiliates as well as a possible state constitutional amendment to provide further protection for Californians.

Staff writers Colin Atagi and Kathleen Coates contributed to this report.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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