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San Diego elected officials reaffirm stance supporting abortion rights

Emotions are still raw following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday. Today, lawmakers in San Diego reaffirmed their stance on a woman’s right to choose and to support a constitutional amendment to codify reproductive rights into California’s constitution. Meanwhile, people were out in Santee to rally in support of abortion rights. KPBS’s Alexander Nguyen was there and brings us this story.

Three days after the Supreme Court's historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending federal protection on abortions, emotions remain raw among female lawmakers in San Diego.

At a news conference Monday morning in front of the County Administration building, Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-La Mesa, said because of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, she will have fewer rights than her mother or grandmother.

She was in Washington, D.C., on Friday to vote on a bipartisan gun safety bill — the first major gun legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years — when she heard the news.

"I literally started shaking with anger, with rage," Jacobs said. "Because as a young woman ... and as the only woman who represents San Diego in Congress, this decision is personal."

She said while this decision affects all women, low-income and women of color will be affected the most.

County Supervisor Nora Vargas said the ruling would add more burden to the marginalized communities affected by poverty and lack of access to health care, including Black women and Latinas.

"This is due to factors of culture, language — et cetera — barriers, lack of access to prenatal services, and because we (Latinas) do have the highest rates, uninsured rate of us than any other ethnic group," she said.

She said San Diego is leading the way to ensure that reproductive rights are protected.

"We're united as a region because we believe collectively that abortion is health care, that the health and safety of our communities are our top priority," Vargas said. "We believe that access to affordable, safe, legal abortion is a human right, and it should be guaranteed under our state constitution."

California Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, along with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, earlier this month introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 to enshrine abortion rights into the state's constitution. The state Senate approved the amendment last Monday and the Assembly passed the amendment Monday afternoon.

Voters will have the chance to vote on the amendment on the November ballot.

Atkins used her time at the news conference to urge its passage.

"History has shown us that human rights must be enshrined in our Constitution so that no extremist wielding power can infringe upon them," she said. "This is one such historic moment, and we are meeting it with a historic response."

Atkins said while the Supreme Court's decision Friday was as expected, she's still enraged by it because "nothing can truly prepare you for the feeling you get ... when the highest court in our nation just eradicated a nearly 50-year precedent of abortion access and privacy."

"Three days later, the sting is just as strong as when I awoke to the tragic news Friday morning," she added. "I'm still filled with disbelief and, frankly, raged."

She said California is committed to protecting a women's right to choose. The state has one of the most comprehensive responses to the Dobbs ruling. During the current legislative session, there are 13 bills aimed at protecting and expanding abortion access in the state.

In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assemblymember Lena Gonzalez's, D-Long Beach, bill eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortion services, including insurance co-pays. On Friday, hours after the Dobbs decision was released, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1666 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Dublin) into law. That bill protects women from other states who seek abortion services in California from civil liabilities.

Jacobs said overturning Roe v. Wade was just the beginning of the "extreme right-wing agenda" and other rights are also at risk, including gay marriage.

"As important as what we are doing here in California is, we know that if Republicans get in power, they are going to pass a federal abortion ban. So it is not enough," she said.

She urged Congress to act to codify abortion rights into law. Congressmen Scott Peters and Juan Vargas, who were also at the news conference, agreed.

Vargas said the election of Donald Trump made the right wing's agenda possible but said the roadblocks to protecting abortion rights are Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Both are Democrats and both joined Republicans in voting to keep the filibuster.

"If they would just change their minds, we could codify Roe v. Wade as the law of the land," he said. "We have to do that, and we have to put pressure on them to do that."

Like Jacobs, Vargas said other rights are at risk too.

"They're aiming at the LGBTQ community with equality. They're aiming at people with disabilities. Justice Clarence Thomas said that," he said.

Monday afternoon, protesters gathered at Santee Trolley Square in support of reproductive rights. The protest was organized by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, a grassroots organization led by young people.

“I am very upset that we have to be doing this," said Kirsten Hernandez. "It's upsetting that we have to fight against a Supreme Court with two men who have been accused of sexual harassment and rape, and we're here to tell them, no more. They're on notice.”

She said she's happy to see many young people protesting Monday, it shows the younger generation is speaking up.

Santana High School student Gabriela Nzewi, 16, was there with her friend Eva Crew, 16. They said it's important for them to be at the protest because reproductive rights are human rights.

"We have human rights and we are human at the end of the day, and we should be treated as such,” Nzewi said.

"Religion should not be in politics," Crew said. "So for this to be going down now, almost 50 years later is absolutely absurd."

Updated: June 27, 2022 at 5:32 PM PDT
This story was updated to note SCA 10 passed the Assembly and to include information from the protest in Santee.