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Southern California responds to Supreme Court dismantling Roe v. Wade

The 5-4 ruling from the court’s conservative majority overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision caused immediate visceral reactions.

For Christel Reyna, an Eastvale resident and activist, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the right to an abortion was deeply personal.

She was immediately reminded of the trauma she endured when she was just 19 years old and sexually assaulted in a Los Angeles parking lot. Once she realized she had gotten pregnant, Reyna chose to have an abortion.

But the high court’s decision means states can strip that option from women, including those who have been assaulted.

“What are they going to say to a woman that goes through what I went through? Where are the options? This is horrible,” Reyna said.

It was a historic decision that reverberated across the nation Friday morning. The 5-4 ruling from the court’s conservative majority overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision caused immediate visceral reactions spanning the gamut from those who worry what rights the court could dismantle next to those who celebrated what they see as protections for the unborn.

The decision — perhaps the most lifechanging one for so many women — settled a somber cloud for many on either side of the abortion issue on what was otherwise a sunny Friday morning in Southern California.

“I share the searing fury felt by the majority of Americans who are angry and scared for what this Supreme Court decision means — for the lives of their daughters, granddaughters, and loved ones,” said state Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego. “For the lives of everyone who will be left without options as a result of this regressive decision. With this ruling, the Supreme Court has turned its back on safety and equality. But in California, those values remain firmly rooted. Here, pregnant individuals and their families will always be entitled to dignity, understanding, and reproductive choice.”

In Long Beach, Lisa Del Sesto, a coordinator for the Long Beach-Orange County chapter of Women Rising, said she expects California lawmakers to follow through on those pledges.

“California is strengthening its resolve to ensure the rights of women and that abortion protections are expanded,” she said. “I believe California will become an oasis for reproductive rights.”

Del Sesto also said she hopes Friday’s ruling will mobilize Democratic voters, as well as independents and others who want to protect abortion rights, to keep the Democratic Party in the majority so there’s a chance to codify Roe into law.

The alternative is worse, Del Sesto said.

“I don’t think Republicans will stop here,” she said. “They will try to codify a ban on abortions (nationally), which would be a tragedy.”

Betsy Jenkins, a longtime Laguna Beach community volunteer who has for years helped local organizations and nonprofits, said she was devastated when the decision was announced.

“I hope and trust that more states will enact laws, especially in California, to counter and render mute the impact for women in America,” she said.

Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino has already seen an influx of out-of-state patients seeking services in recent years, particularly as states like Texas have pushed largescale abortion bans.

Dr. Janet Jacobson, the organization’s medical director, said PPOSBC saw about four times more out-of-state patients prior Friday’s decision — a “trickle effect,” she called it. But, post-over-turning Roe, Jacobson predicts the Southern California’s Planned Parenthoods will now see an influx of about 40 times more out-of-state patients.

“We’ve been preparing at PPOSBC for about two years. It seemed with the Supreme Court that Roe could indeed be overturned,” Jacobson said in an interview.

Jacobson, in particular, is concerned about patients who are in the middle of an abortion process. She said she’s been wrangling calls with her counterparts in states that have already or are preparing to restrict abortion to help transfer those patients to other places.

PPOSBC has created an abortion aid program (a way to help out-of-state people arrange travel, accomodations, and more), provided additional training for staff, increased the amount of patients that can be seen, and planned to open a new health center offering a slate of reproductive health care services in San Bernardino County. The new facility will tentatively open early next year.

But still, Jacobson has to ensure patients in California are still be served by PPOSBC, she said.

Meanwhile, local anti-abortion activists and faith leaders praised the Supreme Court’s decision.

Diocese of San Bernardino Bishop Alberto Rojas said the Supreme Court’s decision was “an affirmation that every precious life created by God should be protected under law” and called for opposition to California’s push to expand abortion accessibility.

“So many millions of lives,” Rojas said, “have been extinguished under the shadow of Roe v. Wade these past 50 years.”

“We are called in our Baptism to protect life at every stage,” he said. “This is such a moment.”

And Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also hailed the ruling as “historic.”

“For nearly 50 years, America has enforced an unjust law that has permitted some to decide whether others can live or die; this policy has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of preborn children, generations that were denied the right to even be born,” Gomez said in a joint statement with Archbishop E. Lori of Baltimore.

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Rise4AbortionLA members protest the Rowe vs Wade decision by the Supreme Court outside of the Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles Friday, June 24, 2022. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“The end of Roe is the beginning of a new phase in the fight for equal protection for all human beings,” Mary Rose Short, director of outreach for California Right to Life, said in an email to the Register. “While our current California Legislature will do nothing to legally protect unborn children, we will continue to educate the public about the development of the child in the womb and about the barbaric reality of abortion, in order to change minds, save lives, and hasten the day when every child will be protected by law.”

Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion, wrote.

“We therefore hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito said.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court should revisit decisions that codified same-sex marriage and contraception access.

Thomas’ opinion only underscores how the ruling “has implications for LGBTQ people and other groups of people,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress. “We have an unelected Supreme Court showing little restraint in terms of attempting to set back the politics of our country, the politics of inclusion and equality. That to me is very ominous.”

The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, too, said it was concerned about the ramifications this decision could have, calling it “horrifying, appalling, cowardly, and cruel.”

“With this ruling, our most basic rights like marriage, health care, access to sports, and sexuality are under the threat of elimination,” the center said in a statement.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — considered the more liberal justices on the court — dissented.

“With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” they wrote.

(The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold Mississippi’s abortion law, but 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts wanted to the southern state’s law but not overturn Roe.)

Within minutes of the decision’s release, red states announced they were rolling back abortion access.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, took action early Friday morning to ban abortion in the state. He said Missouri was the first state to do so following the high court’s decision, and shortly thereafter, the lone abortion clinic in the state announced it ceased offering abortion services.

Brad Dacus, president and founder of the conservative, California-based Pacific Justice Institute, vowed his organization would assist state legislatures in restricting abortion access.

“This is a landmark day for Americans across this great country for the defense of those who cannot defend themselves,” Dacus said.

But for Tansu Philip, a Redlands resident who co-owns a small business in San Bernardino, the move was “really disappointing and depressing” — even in spite of a similar draft opinion leaked last month.

“Knowing something’s coming doesn’t prepare you for how bad it is when it actually becomes official,” she said. “Even though in my mind I knew it would happen, it’s extra devastating knowing it’s official. It feels like there’s nothing we can do.”

Philip said she was concerned for those who will still seek abortions in states that have outlawed the procedure and endure potentially harmful or deadly effects.

“What are they supposed to do?” she said. “Men already kill women when they don’t want them pregnant with their child. So when she can’t get an abortion, what happens?”

“I feel like my country just died,” said Sharon Byrne, president of the United Nations Association of Santa Barbara and a delegate to the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women 2021 and 2022. “It will destroy millions of women’s lives in its death throes. Six people killed this country. That’s all it took.”

Byrne said she spent the morning crying, but come evening, she will march to the Santa Barbara courthouse along with others in opposition of the overturning of Roe.

“They can’t oppress all of us,” she said.


Tom Bray, Kimberly Guimarin, Chris Haire, Jeff Horseman, Heather McCrea, Erika Ritchie, Monserrat Solis, Michael Sprague, Jill Stewart, and Brian Whitehead contributed to this report.

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