Roughly 500 people gathered in Downtown Long Beach Friday evening after news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end constitutional rights to abortion was announced earlier in the day.
In the crowd, Amber Lara, 33, stood on the steps of the courthouse in a white lab coat holding up a sign that read “Doctors for abortion.”
Lara, who did not share her place of work for fear of retaliation, said reading the decision Friday morning was shocking.
“When I read it I felt dread, a lot of sadness and disappointment,” said Lara. “For me, personally and professionally, it’s unprecedented how we are regressing in terms of healthcare and women’s rights. This is a chance for us as physicians, as Californians to show our support for those women who may be in really tough times.”
The crowd quickly grew from around 100 people at the start to about 500.
“Women’s voices all over are being ignored,” said Emily Hernandez, 28, from Long Beach who showed up with her partner Billy Cedano, 30. As a gay couple, the pair showed up in support of women in red states who do not have the same protections as those living in California, they said.
“Those women face a lot harsher consequences than we do in California for the decisions they make about their bodies. We’re here as a voice for them and we are in support of them,” said Hernandez.
The diverse crowd of all ages chanted “Our body, our choice.” Kids sat on shoulders, moms pushed strollers, cars drove by and honked in support and dozens held signs admonishing the Supreme Court, which has come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of recent decisions on gun rights, reproductive rights and more.
Justice Clarence Thomas even argued in an opinion Friday that the Supreme Court “should reconsider” its past rulings on rights to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
Chants of “our bodies, our choice” ring out in front of the courthouse as the crowd has grown greatly over the last 15 minutes. Several people continue to arrive. pic.twitter.com/cKeu9HpVQF
— Fernando Haro (@FernandoAHaro) June 25, 2022
The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach reacted bluntly in a statement Friday about the Roe decision: “Horrifying, appalling, cowardly, and cruel.”
“With this ruling our most basic rights like marriage, healthcare, access to sports, and sexuality are under the threat of elimination,” the organization said.
The court’s 5-4 decision ended nearly 50 years of guaranteed abortion access for American women. In California, the decision will not have an effect, with local and state politicians promising to expand access to abortion and ramp up legal protections for women.
A couple of the signs that can be found here out in front of the courthouse. pic.twitter.com/CLQqcvLmGu
— Fernando Haro (@FernandoAHaro) June 25, 2022
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1666 Friday that immediately protects patients and abortion providers from civil liability in the event that they travel to California seeking abortion care from states where the procedure is banned or access is narrowed.
Trigger laws that will immediately ban all, or nearly all, abortions have already taken effect across the country in seven states including Missouri, Arkansas and Alabama and others are expected to join within the next 30 days.
The decision was foreshadowed last month in a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
“We hold that Roe and [the 1992 Planned Parenthood vs.] Casey must be overruled,” Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.”
Protests materialized quickly across the country while others came out in support of the decision.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Department wrote in a Friday memo that the impact of criminalizing abortion will fall hardest on people who already struggle to access health care including low income women, women of color, immigrants, youth, and LGBTQI+ people, “many of whom will now potentially face the prospect of forced childbirth,” the memo said.
The department assured that the country’s Safe Haven Abortion Project that is currently underway seeks to improve reproductive health services, including abortion for people who travel to California from states where abortion is no longer legal.
“Access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, is fundamental to the health of individuals, families, and communities,” the memo said.
CalMatters contributed to this report.