Thousands took to the streets of San Francisco Friday evening after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade.
Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has protected the right to abortion under the constitution; now, the right to abortion is completely up to state legislation. In California, abortion remains protected under the state constitution.
The protest began in several locations; groups met up at the intersection of Eighth Street and Market Street for speeches, then marched down Mission Street to Embarcadero while holding signs and chanting slogans like “My body, my choice” and “Fuck the court, fuck the state, people will decide our fate.”
“I just felt like I had to do something, and this is the only thing I really can do right now,” San Francisco resident Samantha Dehart said. “Because I can’t change the law but I can be here and be with other people and be doing my best to do what I can.”
Honey Mahogany, Chair of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and a speaker at the march, said the event organizers hope to push the state legislature to advance a package of bills aimed at making abortion easier for out-of-state patients to seek abortions.
That package includes $125 million to subsidize abortion services for those without health care coverage for abortion services and sexual and reproductive health education.
According to Kristina Lee, an organizer with the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice, the group has been anticipating this moment since the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was leaked in early May.
But that didn’t lessen the blow; many protesters said when they first heard the news Friday morning they were left in shock and fear.
“It’s terrifying to wake up with less rights than you had last night,” Dehart said.
“We’re here because we’ve never before seen this kind of regression in human rights — in rights of women, in rights of queer folks,” Marin County resident and rising senior Chloe Flynn said.
San Francisco resident Jennifer O’Neal said that as a social worker, she’s worked with women who were forced to have children — for a lot of them, through incest — and seen the lifelong financial and emotional burden that it imposes on them.
“Having worked with women that have had children who could not afford to care for them and then [seeing] how they’re demonized … that just progresses their mental illness and it progresses their usage and it progresses their low-income status, and they’re just set up to fail from such a young age,” O’Neal said.
The ruling is opening a “floodgate,”: patients are expected to come to “sanctuaries” like California from across the nation — but they’ll be going to hospitals that are already overwhelmed because of COVID-19, O’Neal said. She noted that limiting access to abortion will predominantly affect women of color and that it only gets rid of safe abortions.
And though O’Neal and San Francisco resident Jenica Jessen described themselves as spiritual and religious, respectively, both said they identify as “pro-choice,” and that it isn’t contradictory.
“I do have a lot of religious friends and family so I guess I’m here and speaking up because … it’s not us vs. them, it’s not Christians vs. the rest of the world, it’s not women vs. men, it’s all of us against intolerance, it’s all of us against oppression,” Jessen said.
Gil Rubinstein contributed to the reporting in this story.