Hundreds of local residents marched through the streets of Santa Barbara on Saturday in support of reproductive rights for all, waving signs and leading chants to protest abortion restrictions.
The local rally was part of the fifth annual nationwide Women’s March, and was known locally as the March for Reproductive Rights. Across the nation, thousands gathered in various cities on Saturday to support access to reproductive care and oppose recent legislation out of Texas that bans abortion after six weeks.
“We are here today because we are outraged by the attacks on our reproductive rights,” Jenna Tosh, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Central Coast, said Saturday. “Roe v. Wade is hanging by a thread.”
“In this moment of darkness, we have to remember — movements are born from darkness,” she later added. “It’s our job to strive for the light, even when it is hard to see it. It’s our job to turn our pain into our power, and our anger into action.”
Local participants began at De la Guerra Plaza and marched up State Street, holding signs with sayings like “Women’s rights are human rights” and “Abortion is health care.” The crowd eventually ended the march outside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where they danced with members of World Dance for Humanity.
Several local politicians marched alongside residents on Saturday, including State Sen. Monique Limón and Assemblymember Steve Bennett. Before the start of the march. Sen. Limón delivered an impassioned speech, vowing that she and Mr. Bennett would continue the fight to protect abortion access in California for years to come.
“We are fighting for women to be able to talk to their medical providers and make the best decisions that they need to in the worst and scariest and most difficult of cases,” the senator told the crowd Saturday. “In California, we have fought and we will continue to fight not only to protect this right, but to ensure that we expand access, to ensure that when women have to make decisions about their reproductive health, they have medical coverage, that they have co-payments that are affordable or none, and ensure that they have access that’s within a driving distance. All of these things are made difficult in states like Texas, even when the life of a woman is at risk.”
“Help me and stand strong and make sure that Sacramento, Washington, D.C. and Texas hear us roar. We will continue to fight for you in Sacramento,” she later added.
Saturday’s march came just a few months before the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that many activists fear could lead to an overturn of Roe. v. Wade. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, considers Mississippi’s abortion ban and questions whether abortions before a fetus is viable is constitutional. The case will be heard by the court on Dec. 1.
With the future of reproductive rights hanging in the balance, many supporters took to the streets of Santa Barbara on Saturday vowing to continue to fight for abortion access across the nation.
Among the marching crowd was Beverley Brier, a local Santa Barbara resident who also marched for reproductive rights nearly 28 years ago. On Saturday she wore a shirt that said “Choice” in rainbow colors — the same shirt she wore when she marched on State Street in the 1990s. She was joined by her daughter, Lauri Baker, who also marched alongside her more than two decades ago.
“I’m the older one in the group, and I’m very shocked that we have to have this march again,” Ms. Brier told the News-Press on Saturday. “I can’t believe it happened.”
Ms. Baker, her daughter, held a sign that said “My arm is tired from carrying this sign since the ’70s. Protect safe legal abortion.” Ms. Baker told the News-Press that the women “never stopped marching” and will continue to fight for access to safe abortions.
Local Santa Barbara resident Lisa Raphael was also among the more than a thousand residents who participated in Saturday’s march. She told the News-Press on Saturday that “nobody should get in the middle of a woman and her doctor” when it comes to reproductive health.
“There are a million different reasons a woman has an abortion, and it’s no one’s business except that woman and her doctor,” Ms. Raphael said.
“Everybody should have access to safe and healthy abortions,” she added. “I have a daughter, it’s very important to me that she has access to healthcare of any sort.”