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Potential ‘astonishing’ Roe v. Wade abortion ruling fought by Inland Empire women’s groups

Rape victim Christel Reyna, of Eastvale, speaks at a rally in support of Roe v. Wade outside the United States District Court in downtown Riverside on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Reyna stated she had an abortion after she was raped in 1991 at the age of 19 and became pregnant from her attacker. A leaked document from the United States Supreme Court stated the court is leaning towards overturning the landmark case which gave women the right to have abortions. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Inland Empire supporters of women’s rights are preparing to fight.

Angered and concerned about the U.S. Supreme Court’s anticipated overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision established a women’s right to have an abortion, they are speaking out. And they’re planning to stand up at rallies Tuesday evening, May 3, in Riverside and Pomona.

“It is part of a national response,” said Riverside resident Chani Beeman, who for many years has been an advocate for women’s rights. “It will be a wave across the country.”

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Roe v. Wade supporters Kristen Stolte (left) and Desiree Lasiewski (right) rally outside the United States District Court in downtown Riverside on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. A leaked document from the United States Supreme Court stated the court is leaning towards overturning the landmark case which gave women the right to have abortions. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Women’s March, Planned Parenthood and others are rallying against the pending decision of the nation’s highest court at 5 p.m. in front of the U.S. District Court in downtown Riverside.

About half an hour into the protest, the crowd had grown to more than 100. “Defend Roe,” the demonstrators chanted. They signs with slogans such as “Forced pregnancy is a crime against women.” Protesters cheered as cars passed by honking their horns and chanting: “We will not go back.” The crowd also chanted, “What do we want? Safe abortions. When do we want it? Now.”

Riverside resident Jeanette Karren rallied outside a federal courthouse in Riverside on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Karren said she is “scared of the fallout” from the potential U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion. (Photo by David Downey, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Five years ago, Riverside resident Jeanette Karren listened to a podcast that mentioned a Roe v. Wade reversal and she thought, “No way.”

On Tuesday, she said: “I’ve been thinking a lot about that podcast today,” adding that she should have paid more attention.“I’m extremely disappointed,” Karren said. “And honestly I’m scared. I’m scared of the fallout.”

Women could die from unsafe or self induced abortions, she said. Karren was holding her sign out over the street because “I want people to read it.”

A similar rally began at 5:30 p.m. at Planned Parenthood’s Pomona Health Center.

Miranda Sheffield, an organizer in Pomona and former city council candidate, said in a phone interview that local governments shouldn’t wait for an official ruling, but prepare as though one already has been made.

The 36-year-old, who attended the Pomona rally, said she was “disturbed,” but not surprised by the leaked Supreme Court opinion given its makeup and the opportunity a majority of justices have “to do something like this.”

“It says a lot about the direction our country is going when we see something like this coming down,” she added. In the interim, California governments must set themselves up to support reproductive justice, Sheffield said, and protect other hot-button issues, including gender identity.

As others have proposed, Sheffield called for Congress to codify Roe v. Wade so women – particularly women of color and poor women – don’t have to continue worrying about those in power deciding what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

“It would be a wild situation to not be able to go down the street, 5, 10 miles and have your reproductive needs be met because someone else not impacted by this made a decision on your body,” she said.Connie Ransom, who helped lead the 2017 Riverside Women’s March, plans to attend the Riverside rally.

“This is just astonishing that this has come to pass,” Ransom said Tuesday.

“It’s just going backwards, she said. “It’s like (the current national debate on) voting rights — it’s taking away the individual freedom of women.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford called the issue “a political hot potato” and urged people “to have real in-depth conversations about (the matter) rather than just reacting in a politically performative way.

“This is people’s lives and well-being we’re talking about,” she added, “both babies and moms.”

The real conversation, Rutherford added, should be about “how we all want to minimize medically unnecessary abortions and how we all want to make sure that women get the appropriate health care.”

As of Tuesday, there were no plans in San Bernardino County to do more than follow any potential move by state legislators to make abortion widely legal and available in California, no matter the Supreme Court’s ruling, Rutherford said.

“There’s nothing our county would do in advance of that decision from the state or in addition to that,” she added.

One of those who planned to demonstrate at the Riverside event is Christel Reyna, 50, an Eastvale resident and 1989 graduate of Riverside’s Ramona High School. She said she is also a rape survivor.

“I am beside myself with what could potentially happen with Roe v. Wade,” she said.

In 1991, she said, she was assaulted in a parking structure in Los Angeles after meeting friends for dinner. She was 19 at the time.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I was devastated,” Reyna said. “I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know what options I had.” She ultimately opted to have an abortion and is grateful not to have been “forced to have a child with a rapist.”

“I am now a mother of four beautiful children,” she said. “And I am in a different place in my life. But I will never forget that time.”

She fears for young women going forward. “Are they now going to have to go across state lines to obtain those services?” Reyna asked, adding that Southern California could see an influx of women coming here to obtain abortions.

“It breaks my heart for those women who don’t have the resources to travel, if this goes through,” she said.

Reyna said the development could motivate more people to turn out to vote in upcoming elections.

Ransom said the anticipated Supreme Court ruling will put women who are sexually assaulted in “a horrifying situation.”

“They will have to raise a child that was born of a hateful encounter,” Ransom said. “It just makes no sense.”

The news did not surprise Beeman.

“I think the writing’s been on the wall for about five years now,” she said.

She called the news a disturbing development.

“I think we’re turning the clocks back,” Beeman said. “People need to wake up and recognize that rights that people have taken for granted are in jeopardy.”

The ruling won’t halt abortions, Beeman said.

“It will stop safe abortions,” she said. “And it is nothing less than a power grab — power over women’s bodies. It’s always been about that.”

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