Local News

Thousands Turn Out for Rally for Reproductive Rights

Demonstrators gathered at Centennial Regional Park in Santa Ana on Saturday, May 14 for a rally hosted by the Planned Parenthood of San Bernardino and Orange Counties to protest the Supreme Court’s draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision from 1973 that gave American women the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion for privacy reasons.

Attendees carry signs at the rally for reproductive rights. Photo by Anthony Robert.

Over 4,000 protesters, many of whom donned signs with messages such as “Abortion is a Civil Right” and “Bans off Our Bodies,” stood in a grassy field and listened to a variety of speakers, all of whom roundly condemned the draft decision and its effects on American women.

One of the rally’s main speakers, California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, said, “We have seen enough in the history of our country to really understand what it is that the right wing is doing in attacking this fundamental freedom. They are trying to disempower women. They don’t like us to be so strong. They don’t like us to be so powerful. They don’t like our loud voices demanding a seat at the table in our own government.”

California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis addresses the crowd. Photo by Anthony Robert.

In addition to Kounalakis, many Orange County activists and politicians at many levels of government, all Democrats, also spoke at the rally, with the line-up including Congresswoman Katie Porter, State Senator Dave Min, and Democratic Party of Orange County Chair Ada Briceño. Both of Fullerton’s State Senators, Josh Newman and Tom Umberg, the latter of whom is running for re-election this November, also appeared at the rally although they did not speak.

Lisa Del Sesto, a Circle Coordinator with the LBOC Women Rising, a feminist organization serving the Long Beach and North Orange County areas, said that the main purpose of the rally was about “letting everyone in this country know that the majority do not agree with the Supreme Court,” adding that she believes that the Women’s Health Protection Act needs to be an urgent priority for the nation’s lawmakers in order to protect abortion rights.

Another rally attendee, who identified herself to The Observer as Jasmine, said she attended the rally as the abortion issue was crucial to her. “I’ve been going to Planned Parenthood for ten plus years now, and I’ve actually had an experience of my own. Through Planned Parenthood and living in California, I feel so blessed to have this community and people that I feel are supporting me.”

Around 10 to 15 anti-abortion counter-protesters arrived during the rally, often getting into arguments and even a scuffle or two with the rally’s attendees over the abortion issue. Some of their language seemed intended to provoke the abortion rights supporters, with their signs showing pictures of aborted fetuses and messages such as, “Thou shalt not kill.” The counter-protesters distributed anti-abortion literature to attendees in both English and Spanish from the Liberty Baptist Church in Norwalk.

Both police officers and private security guards were present throughout the rally to both protect the speakers and for crowd control purposes, with no incidents occurring throughout the rally.

Overall, the mood at the rally was surprisingly upbeat and energetic given the potential setbacks for the cause of abortion rights, although plenty of boos and groans emanated from the crowd whenever the rally’s speakers mentioned the Supreme Court in their speeches.

“It was peaceful and empowering,” Jasmine said, adding that she felt a sense of community from the presence of other attendees. About her impressions of the future, Lisa Del Sesto said, “I have a good, positive feeling for the future, even though we are standing in front of some very dark times.”

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