CARLSBAD — North County residents gathered in the hundreds on Saturday in Carlsbad to support continued nationwide access to safe abortions, in response to a leaked United States Supreme Court draft opinion proposing to strike down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
The possibility of seeing half a century of federal abortion protections overturned has sent waves of shock and outrage through the United States.
The Carlsbad event was one of the dozens of “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies held throughout the country in affiliation with Planned Parenthood Action Fund over the weekend, including one in downtown San Diego.
While studies indicate that around one in four women will have an abortion by the age of 40, over half of U.S. states including Idaho, Utah and Arizona are likely to implement legislation restricting abortions in some form — from banning the procedure after 22 weeks of pregnancy to as soon as six weeks— if Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
After learning about the leaked draft opinion, first reported by Politico on May 3, Carlsbad political organizer Shirley Cole said she immediately began organizing a march for North County residents to make their voices heard.
“I immediately got online and I saw something in San Diego, but nothing in North County. I thought, ‘We really need something here,’ so I started putting it together,” Cole said. “I was in a march 50 years ago for the same thing. There are a lot of women like me who have gone through this and are disgusted.”
The resulting event drew a crowd of around 500 people to the Carlsbad Village Station who marched in a sea of signs and impassioned chants to the park overlooking Carlsbad City Beach.
Many residents showed up in support of loved ones living in states where bans are imminent, or to advocate for a future of choice for their children and grandchildren. There were also many who have already experienced the realities of a world without Roe.
Rory, an attendee who chose not to share her last name, recounted how she hitchhiked at the age of 18 from Missouri to New York in order to get an abortion because she was not ready to have a child. When she learned that other women may once again face the same challenges she did, she was “horrified but not really surprised.”
“The writing has been on the wall for a long time. We haven’t done enough to codify Roe, and now it’s coming back to bite us,” Rory said.
Democrats’ most recent attempts to codify abortion rights under federal law, which would make it more difficult for it to be overturned by the Supreme Court, via the Women’s Health Protection Act bill were unsurprisingly blocked in the U.S. Senate on May 11.
Experts anticipate that bans will disproportionately impact low-income people of color, especially in the South, who already lack access to health care.
Resident Kathie Fang shared her fear for women who may become pregnant as a result of sexual assault and want an abortion. Many of the 26 states proposing abortion bans or restrictions do not make exceptions for those who become pregnant as a result of rape and incest, according to the New York Times.
“We need to make sure women who have been a victim, or just want to choose, can have that choice. We want a community where people can feel safe,” Fang said.
Encinitas Mayor and 38th State Senate District candidate Catherine Blakespeare showed her support for abortion rights as a keynote speaker at the Carlsbad rally, emphasizing that reproductive decisions should be entirely personal, rather than dictated by the government or anyone else.
“There’s this notion that this should be a joint decision … but we don’t birth children collectively, we don’t raise them collectively, and we don’t feed them collectively,” Blakespeare said. “It’s her dreams, it’s her independence, it’s her decision if she wants to birth a child, have a child or care for a child.”
She also reminded attendees that just because abortion bans are in place does not mean women will stop seeking ways to end unwanted pregnancies.
“There is no world where we don’t have abortion. We’re only banning safe abortions,” she said.