Regional leaders stand together in defense of women’s rights

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On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade in a 5-4 decision, ending federal constitutional rights to abortion. This was the result of SCOTUS’ decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where Mississippi banned nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. With this decision, nearly half the states are expected to ban, or severely restrict abortion, as other states work to protect women from other states seeking reproductive care in “safe haven” states.

In California, abortion is still legal under state law.
In a joint press conference on June 17, San Diego County Supervisor Vice Chair Nora Vargas, along with State Sen. Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Rep. Sarah Jacobs, Rep. Juan Vargas and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, signed a letter of support for Senate Constitution Amendment 10 (SCA 10) which “enshrines” legal abortion in the California constitution.

Nora Vargas said the decision by the Supreme Court will only create an environment where abortions take place in unsafe conditions, putting people’s health at risk.

“Our San Diego region stand united and ready to support access to reproductive health and we will continue to fight to ensure abortion is safe and legal across the nation,” said Nora Vargas.

Atkins said the Supreme Court “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. Abortion is health care and the decision to have one lies solely with the patient. California will not leave people vulnerable to the tyranny of a loud minority,” said Atkins.
Gloria said the decision was “chilling in scope” and what it portends for the future of America.

“Here in California, and in San Diego, we promise to fortify your freedoms so they cannot be eroded by justices catering to right-wing extremists,” he said. “But we will also continue to fight for the fundamental rights of all people in all states. None of us is free unless all of us are free.”

On June 16, Jacobs introduced the bill My Body, My Data Act with Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden to urge federal legislators to codify the right to abortion in the Constitution. She said the Supreme Court’s decision is a “destructive, shameful decision” that leaves many vulnerable people at risk who rely on lifesaving, reproductive health care.

“But his is just the beginning of the fight, not the end,” she said. “We will not stop fighting until every person, in every state, has access to their fundamental rights. This decision is outrageous and has dangerous and far-reaching implications for Americans’ rights to privacy and bodily autonomy. We cannot let this stand…and we need to do everything in our power to immediately protect the individuals at risk in the states where the right to make our own decisions about our own bodies is criminalized.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown released a joint statement after the June 24 ruling forming the West Coast offense & protect reproductive freedom in their states on June 24, shortly after SCOTUS released its decisions.
Newsom said reproductive freedoms in the states are under attack.

“That is why Californian, Oregon and Washington are building the West Coast Offense to protect patients’ access to reproductive care,” he said. “We will defend doctors, nurses and medical professionals who support patients who are seeking reproductive care in our states. We will fight like hell to protect your rights and your safety.”

Inslee said red states and Republicans stacked courts which “rolled back the rights of Americans.”

“We are going to work with our legislators, our providers, and our patient advocates,” he said. “We are going to protect patient privacy. We are going to expand access to abortion services to the people in need. The West Coast United States is going to stand strong.”

Brown said the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe vs Wade, more than half the states in the U.S., ban abortion outright or severely restrict access to abortion services.

“We will continue to protect patients from any state who come to our states for abortion care,” she said. “We will resist intrusions by out of state prosecutors, law enforcement, or vigilantes, trying to investigate patients receiving services in our states. We will not stand on the sidelines.”

Newsom said this was what (Senate minority leader) Mitch McConnell wanted and former president Donald Trump pursued, “and this is the world we are currently living in.” He said this moment punctuates what is really going on in this country and “how they are really just winding up” and the significance of this moment.

“Here is where my optimism lies,” he said. “The future is not something to experience. It is something to manifest. It is decisions, not conditions that determine our fate and future. We have the capacity to turn this around, knowing full well this was going to happen and here we are as Californians, prepared not only for this moment, but for moments that come after.”

On June 14, Newsom signed California Assembly Bill 1666, intended to shield patients and providers who have or assist with an abortion in California from being sued in other states with abortion bans, and announced that California would provide health care clinics grants, part of the governor’s $125 million Reproductive Health Package.

“To push back against those Republican state legislators and governors that seek to move forward with civil actions to people who wish to travel to the state of California seeking their productive rights and reproductive freedoms. We will not aide, we will not abet in their efforts to be punitive, to find and create fear for those who seek that support,” he said.

Republican Party of San Diego County Chairwoman Paula Whitsell applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and its decision in support of concealed weapons for everyday citizens in a June 24 press release.

“We will always stand for the preservation of life, the Second Amendment, and the protection of all constitutional rights,” Whitsell stated. “We look forward to upholding pro-life and pro-Second Amendment policies and the elected officials and candidates who will champion these policies in San Diego County and California.”

Rep Juan Vargas said that the U.S. has a Supreme Court that “has gone rogue.”

“We have a Supreme Court that believes that they are above the Constitution,” he said. “

Vargas said when the court made the decision, taking the right of choice from women in America, it showed that “they believe they are above the law.”

“The reason they are getting away with it is because of Donald Trump,” he said. “Donald Trump put three of them on this and when people say elections do not matter, I tell you elections matter…With a stroke of a pen, in passing this decision, they took away the rights of women across the country. Thank God for California.”

Juan Vargas said the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3755 (Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021) that would enshrine Roe v. Wade into the law, but due to two Democrats in the Senate who will not vote against the issue of the filibuster, is holding back the passage of this law.
County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said she was “heartbroken” with the overturn of Roe v. Wade in a June 14 press release.

“That is why we fight,” she said. “We can never take our rights for granted. Time for a constitutional amendment in California. Now. Time for us to lend a helping hand to the hundreds of thousands of women trapped in states where our bodies are not protected, where our health and autonomy are subjugated.”

Rep. Darrell Issa disagreed, in his June 24 press release saying, “today is a great day for the cause and the principle of life.”

“Judges hold precious power,” he continued. “They must be independent. The must interpret our laws. They must not make laws or rewrite laws. Judges must interpret our statutes as written. The must interpret the Constitution as written. I will always stand for life. And I will always support and defend our Constitution.”

Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest President & CEO Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson said with the Supreme Court’s decision, said PPAF share’s the communities’ and patients’ sadness, anger and fear.”

“This dangerous and chilling decision will force people to flee their state to access basic, critical care, while those who cannot afford to travel for health care will have to face unbelievable choices and may end up being forced to carry pregnancies against their will. And as we know, barriers to accessing care will only increase for people of color, people with low incomes, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people,” stated Johnson in a June 24 press release. “Today, we are facing another difficult moment, but we are not backing down – not now, not ever. As always, we stand with abortion providers everywhere, with supporters, and with all who will keep fighting until all people can be free to decide if and when to start a family. We will never compromise on our bodies, our dignity, or our ability to make choices about our own health and lives.”

Assembly member Dr. Akilah Weber said the Supreme Court’s decision turned back the clock on women, and millions of women will be harmed by this decision in a June 24 press release.

“We know that abortions will not stop but safe abortions will be unavailable in numerous states, putting women’s lives at risk. Low income and women of color will carry the greatest burden,” Weber stated. “The need for my bill, AB 2134, the California Abortion and Reproductive Equity Act, which would establish the Reproductive Health Equity Program to provide grants to providers who offer reproductive and sexual health care, free of cost, to patients with low-incomes and those who lack health care coverage for reproductive health services is greater than ever. California has multiple bills in progress and a plan to codify a woman’s right to choose in our state constitution.”

County Supervisor Chair Nathan Fletcher called June 24 a “dark day in our country” as constitutionally protected rights in place for 50 years were erased.

“This decision will create uncertainty where there was clarity. Today’s ruling is one that none of us hoped to see, but one we all feared could occur. We must use this tremendous setback as motivation. It’s time to fight forward, to fight for what is right, and work together to fight injustices against women and all people,” stated Fletcher in a press release. “In California, we have safeguards in place to preserve your right to choose. Your reproductive freedom is safe here, and your County is committed to preserving reproductive healthcare and protecting your right to choose.”

In letters to the editor, East County residents Brenda Thompson, Leslie Thompson, Maureen Lasher, Belinda Pavlick, Kathryn Gargano, Lorrie Taylor, Jess Alvarado, Claire Spaun, and Ernie Navarro said to protect reproductive rights, the Supreme Court must be expanded, and urges Congress to pass the Judiciary Act of 2021.

“The Judiciary Act of 2021 would add four new seats to the Supreme Court, bringing the number of justices to 13. It would help restore balance to a court that Mitch McConnell has packed with right-wing extremists who just dismantled abortion care in America,” said Brenda Thompson.

Navarro said Congress should use its constitutional authority to rebalance the Supreme Court, which has been taken over by a supermajority that holds extreme views outside of the mainstream of legal thought and out of step with most Americans.

“There’s nothing stopping Congress from adding justices—except for the political will to do it, of course. In fact, recent polling showed that most of the American voters they represent support expanding the court,” he said.

AFSCME Local 3299 is the University of California’s largest employee union, and president Kathryn Lybarger said the Supreme Court’s decision rolls back 50 years of progress on healthcare and women’s rights.

“As a union that represents mostly women, immigrants, and people of color—the very people who are disproportionately impacted by this frontal assault on reproductive freedom–this attack is especially personal to our membership,” stated Lybarger in a press release. “This appalling and misogynistic act of judicial activism is a stark reminder that elections matter. That’s why we’re calling on all our allies, both inside and outside of the labor movement, to organize as we’ve never organized before at the workplace and in our communities. The 30,000 patient care and service workers of AFSCME 3299 will never stop fighting to restore the freedoms and bodily autonomy that should be protected as fundamental human rights for women everywhere.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision will allow ant-abortion politicians in states across the country to ban abortion and force countless people to remain pregnant and have children against their will in June 24 press release.

“This decision is an unprecedented attack on women’s rights and reproductive freedom, and the effects will be immediate and far reaching. Half the states in the country are expected to ban abortion, denying the 36 million women and other people who can become pregnant in those states the fundamental right to decide for themselves whether and when to become a parent. “Forcing women and other people to carry a pregnancy against their will has life-altering consequences, including enduring serious health risks from continued pregnancy and childbirth, making it harder to escape poverty, derailing their education, career and life plans, and making it more difficult to leave an abusive partner. This decision could also lead to pregnancy losses being subject to suspicion, investigation, and arrest, and patients and doctors being thrown in jail.”

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero issued the following statement:

“Second-class status for women has once again become the law because of today’s decision. We can wave away any pretense that this is the United States of America when it comes to the fundamental right to decide when and if to become a parent. Today’s decision will be remembered for the suffering it will impose on millions of people. The court’s ruling is a brazen assault on the fundamental rights of women — allowing politicians to ban abortion, criminalize people seeking medical care, and put doctors in jail for providing essential health care. Half the states are expected to ban abortion, forever changing the course of countless lives and condemning women and other pregnant people to a future they never envisioned or wanted for themselves,” stated Romero.

“The Supreme Court has just plunged this country and itself into a historic crisis, one that will reverberate far beyond the ability to get an abortion. Forcing people to carry pregnancies against their will is just the beginning. The same politicians seeking to control the bodies of women and pregnant people will stop at nothing to challenge our right to use birth control, the right to marry whom you love, and even the right to vote.”

Regional leaders stand together in defense of women’s rights