Santa Barbara’s 2023 Women’s March rallied a large crowd of supporters in De la Guerra Plaza on Sunday, uniting people of all ages and identities to take to the streets. Their message was clear as they chanted in a procession down State Street: Women’s rights are human rights, abortion is healthcare, and laws should not erase a woman’s bodily autonomy. 

Dr. Charlotte Gullap-Moore speaking at Women’s March Santa Barbara | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

“Some people ask why we march,” said organizer Michal Lynch. “We march for ourselves and everybody else. We need to show ourselves in one way or another to the rest of the community.” 

The theme of this year’s national Women’s March was “Bigger Than Roe,” referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which recognized and protected the right to abortion in the United States. Sunday would have marked the 50th anniversary of Roe, had the decision not been overturned in June 2022. 

Although Proposition 1 passed in California in the November 2022 election, adding the right to abortion to the state’s constitution, many states do not have the same protections. Members of the Santa Barbara community marched in solidarity with advocates all over the country, carrying a message that the movement itself goes beyond what was lost in June 2022. 

“We are fortunate to live in a state that chose to codify the right to a safe and legal abortion,” said Paula Lopez, the president of Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee and one of multiple speakers at Sunday’s rally. “But we must take action now, before more of our rights and the rights of our sisters in other states are taken away. Today we gather, in numbers … to show we are bigger than Roe. Instead of mourning in a defeatist way, we are activating; we are marching.” 

Speakers during Sunday’s rally hailed from diverse backgrounds, but they shared common sentiments as they stood upon the makeshift, wooden stage in the center of De la Guerra Plaza. Many said that losing Roe’s constitutional protections was disheartening, but the speakers were not melancholy but motivated. 

Local leaders, organizers, and representatives showed up to speak in support of the cause. Those included representatives from the California State Assembly, Pacific Pride Foundation, Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund, Standing Together to End Sexual Assault, and the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees. Booths were set up around the plaza by various local and national organizations to encourage people to take action 

No matter their position, or identity, the speakers all reiterated that the work toward reproductive freedom is not over.   

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Luz Reyes-Martín, vice president of the Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund. “Our more recent electoral victories represent the first step in a generational fight to restore and expand reproductive rights in our country.” 

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