The Supreme Court ruled to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on June 24 in a 5-4 vote, a ruling that not only eliminates the federal constitutional right to an abortion but will also trigger laws in several states across the country to punish those who seek or perform abortions.
Hundreds of people congregated on the front lawn of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Friday to attend the vigil organized by the Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund (PPCAF). Speakers included leaders at Planned Parenthood, local community figures, and women sharing their experiences having abortions and how that decision impacted their lives.
“Knowing this was coming does not make this moment any less devastating,” said Luz Reyes-Martín, vice president of the Action Fund. After the draft majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was leaked, it became clear that the half-century-old Roe precedent would likely be overturned, triggering a ripple effect throughout the country.
Pam Tambo, a board member for Hillside House, told the story of her abortion in 1971, having to travel to New York because abortions were illegal in her home state of Indiana. Tambo and her then-husband had two children, and when she became pregnant, she knew she could not financially or emotionally handle having a third child. “I’ve never, ever regretted having an abortion,” Tambo said.
California has consistently upheld the constitutional right to an abortion, and a growing concern has been how the state will accommodate those who cross from bordering states seeking abortion services.
Jenna Tosh, CEO of the Action Fund, said she spoke to colleagues in neighboring states, now having to turn patients away and cancel appointments. Tosh said California is anticipating a surge in patients and that all states that have the right to abortions will likely see an influx of patients from neighboring states. “Never before have we asked 24 states to care for all 50 states’ patients.”
Reverend David Moore, a community leader and soon-to-be board member for the Action Fund, reminded attendees to vote, and not lose hope in the fight for abortion access. “If we fight, we win,” Moore said.
Reyes-Martín concluded the vigil by reiterating the importance of voting in every election. She also encouraged attendees to donate to abortion funds and support local clinics that could be in danger of being closed. “In a country where eight in 10 people believe in the right to safe and legal abortions,” Tosh said. “It is an outrage that six unelected justices have taken our freedoms away.”