Oral arguments at U.S. Supreme Court stir community response; elected officials join local gathering
Officials and community members rallied in De la Guerra Plaza Wednesday to advocate for access to abortions — a component of health care challenged by a case brought before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier that morning.
Leaders at the Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund organized the rally when they heard the Supreme Court was hearing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that challenges Roe v. Wade and looks at Mississippi’s law of banning abortions past 15 weeks pregnancy.
A who’s-who of electeds attended the rally and slipped their hands into neon gloves with the words “bans off” printed on the palms.
Nearly the entire Santa Barbara City Council showed support. Goleta’s Mayor Pro Tempore James Kyriaco attended. The first mayor of Goleta, Margaret Connell, arrived, and Santa Barbara Unified School District board member Laura Capps stood proudly in a hot pink shirt.
State Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, spoke fiercely to the crowd, clenching her fists as she declared, “We say no to bans on our body.”
Afterward, she told the News-Press the rally is about reacting to the day’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court before awaiting a decision — one many believe will come in July.
“That decision will impact what local governments even can do because it’s not just California that’s a thing, right? The state can pass laws to do it, but will the local community support reproductive health centers?” she said.
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling could give states power to ban abortion. After hearing oral arguments Wednesday, Sen. Limón and Action Fund leaders fear Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from banning abortions, may be overturned or restricted.
“Let’s be clear: for three months before we landed here today, the Supreme Court has allowed people in Texas to travel across the country, to suffer in silence, to live without constitutional rights and bodily autonomy,” Dr. Jenna Tosh, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Central Coast, said. “And today, for those of you who listened to the oral arguments, I know it was apparent that there is a plan to dismantle, either gut or wholly overturn, Roe v. Wade.”
California is preparing to ramp up abortive services statewide to serve people traveling for an abortion, and 26 states are likely to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, she said, likely referencing a study by the Guttmacher Institute.
She spotlighted the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation passed by the House of Representatives that declares abortion care a right. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, lauded the House’s actions as he stood in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday morning with demonstrators.
“It’s important that the Supreme Court hear us loud and clear, to not take us back but rather take us forward. And to remind everybody that the House Democrats have passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Senate needs to do their part now,” he said.
The bill’s findings includes an acknowledgment that abortion bans disporportionately affect “people with low incomes, BIPOC, immigrants, young people, people with disabilities and those living in rural and other medically underserved areas.”
Luz Reyes-Martin, vice president of community engagement for Planned Parenthood Central Coast, echoed the bill’s author.
“If you’re white, wealthy and well connected, abortion will always be available to you,” she said, paraphrasing Rep. Judy Chu.
Ms. Reyes-Martin thanked Goleta and Santa Barbara city councils for passing resolutions that declare support for reproductive choice.
“I’m feeling like we’re on the verge of losing some really important freedoms,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo told the News-Press.
She said in her speech that, while she grew up in the era of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, she heard “horror stories of botched abortions.”
She pledged to continue working for feminist issues, such as income equality and access to higher education “so we can have more women lawyers, more women as judges, more people of color as teachers and more women in political office.”
Sen. Limón said California legislation goes beyond Roe v. Wade’s rights. State law also seeks access to reproductive health centers and medically accurate information in schools.
State Assemblymember Steve Bennet, D-Ventura, did not attend in person but sent a video message that was distributed on the Action Fund’s social media pages.
“There are so many powerful forces out there that are trying to cynically take advantage of the debate over abortion and Roe v. Wade in the United States that it is more important than ever that we keep the pedal to the metal and constantly keep our focus on this very important battle,” he said.
Santa Barbara Mayor Pro Tempore Oscar Gutierrez told the News-Press that Texas’s law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy began in a small town.
“We on the local level have to be strong and keep on fighting for these rights because otherwise the same thing that happened in Texas could happen here and in other states,” he said.
Ms. Reyes-Martin said the Action Fund is working with community partners to determine next steps as people await a decision from the Supreme Court.