Oakland — Reproductive healthcare advocates rallied in Oakland on October 8 in support of Proposition 1, a ballot measure that would establish a constitutional right to abortion in California.
The rally, which brought together more than 100 people from across the Bay Area, was one in a series of weekend events nationwide promoting reproductive rights ahead of November’s midterm elections. California is one of three states—alongside Vermont and Michigan—that will vote on ballot initiatives that would affirm a constitutional right to abortion.
“Californians have the chance to send a message to the rest of the world with Proposition 1,” said Stephanie Dominguez Walton, director of Strategic Projects and Partnerships at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country. “Abortion is healthcare. It needs to be accessible, needs to be funded, and it needs to be recognized.”
California law currently allows abortions until the point of viability, which typically occurs around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions are legal after that point only if continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life or health of the pregnant person. Establishing a constitutional right to abortion would help protect against future efforts to restrict reproductive freedom, which some Republican leaders support, by proactively establishing California’s sovereigny on the issue.
For Margaret Eisen, Kc Walker and Sheridan Lewis of Oakland, watching courts and state legislatures across the country roll back access to reproductive healthcare motivated them to attend Saturday’s rally.
“We came out because we were so upset and sad and angry and pissed off about the Supreme Court taking away our rights,” said Eisen. “You can only be sad for so long. At some point you have to get out and do something. This is our way of taking action.”
Eisen learned of the rally through Women’s March, the grassroots advocacy group that first organized nationwide demonstrations the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. The group planned Saturday’s series of events to mark one month until the midterm elections.
Proposition 1 is anticipated to pass in November, according to recent polling by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. In a statewide survey conducted early last month, 69 percent of likely voters surveyed said they would vote yes on the ballot measure.
Despite the proposition’s likely passage, opponents are conducting their own voter mobilization efforts, arguing the ballot measure is extreme, expensive and unnecessary.
Leaders in the Catholic community are particularly concerned that Proposition 1 doesn’t place a limit on late-term abortions, which account for fewer than one percent of abortions in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Archbishop of San Francisco released a letter in August calling on Catholics in the state to oppose Proposition 1 through outreach, “prayer, fasting and financial contributions.” The Church is dedicating particular attention to anti-abortion advocacy throughout October as it celebrates Respect Life Month. Despite these calls to action, fundraising data shows opposition groups had raised just under $70,000 as of late September. Proponents of Proposition 1 had raised more than $9,000,000.
Theresa Pellow-McCauley, a labor and delivery nurse from Oakland, chose to attend the rally in support of Proposition 1 in part because she believes it is crucial that all patients have the right to manage their own medical care throughout pregnancy, whether they choose to have an abortion or not.
“I think people who are against abortion miss a lot of the nuance of the issue, including pregnancies gone bad and fetuses with birth defects,” said Pellow-McCauley. “Someone they know might need this choice someday, and it might be a little hard to imagine if you’re not close to the subject matter.”
During her speech at the rally, Planned Parenthood’s Stephanie Dominguez Walton shared her experience seeking an abortion while growing up in the Bay Area.
“When I needed to exercise my right in 1983, the week before my 18th birthday, I didn’t think twice and neither did any of my peers. We knew that was our fundamental right,” said Dominguez Walton. “That was between me and my healthcare provider.”
Dominguez Walton says Planned Parenthood and other providers will continue to offer care in California regardless of the outcome of November’s election. But Proposition 1 is an opportunity for voters to send an important message to the rest of the country. “California, once again, can lead the way on what is right and just.”
Ballot drop-off locations are now open across California. Registered voters can drop off their vote-by-mail ballots anytime through election day, November 8. Individuals who are not registered to vote can register now until Election Day and still have their ballots counted.
Hannah Bassett is a master’s student pursuing a career in public interest journalism. With experience in government, NGOs and nonprofits, Hannah has researched and written about issues related to immigration, public health and policing in the United States and abroad. Most recently, she managed a coalition of 110 organizations dedicated to strengthening government transparency and led a policy reform effort to improve access to public records. Hannah holds a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, where she studied international relations and linguistics.