Sacramentans took to the streets Friday evening in protest of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, upending a near half-century of constitutional abortion protection.
Hundreds of people of all ages swarmed the federal courthouse and the state Capitol downtown in impromptu events organized by local groups such as Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March and NorCal resist. The protests came in the wake of the Supreme Court’s expected ruling, and after a day in which California Democrats pledged to protect abortion access and those seeking it.
Around 5 p.m., a crowd gathered in front of the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse on I Street in a protest organized and promoted by groups such as the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and NorCal Resist. Protesters stood on the side of the street, waving signs emblazoned with phrases such as “My body, my choice” and “Abort the court,” and cheered as passing cars honked.
Marchers eventually took over the intersection of I and 5th streets, stopping traffic in all directions before peacefully marching into OId Sacramento.
Amanda Czyzewski of Oak Park said that she came to the courthouse protest to escape the “sense of despondency” she felt after learning of Roe’s reversal Friday morning.
“I am just trying to feel something other than numb,” Czyzewski said. “Like, we saw it coming, it wasn’t a shock. But I just felt like I had to do something other than sit around and mope about it.”
Rachel Smith, a midtown resident who also attended the courthouse protest, said that the news of Roe being overturned was “devastating.” Shelby Miller, who accompanied her, said that the ruling had made the two of them fear for their pregnant friends in other states, who might be unable to have abortions should they have complications with pregnancy.
Miller said she also fears the implications that this ruling might have on past Supreme Court decisions that could be upended by the 6-3 conservative majority.
“We have to remember the precedent that this sets,” Miller said. “You know, they’re going to come for gay marriage next; they’re going to come for birth control.”
Around 6:30 p.m., another protest began in front of the state Capitol, promoted by groups such as the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood. Hundreds gathered in a circle to hear speeches, and organizers passed out signs from Planned Parenthood, flooding the crowd with pink, matching the Capitol dome that was later illuminated in support of abortion rights.
People spoke out about their experiences with abortions, and spoke about the desire to make California a haven for those who wish to get abortions but live in states in which abortion will now be outlawed.
California has safeguards in place to ensure that abortion remains legal, as Friday’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision gave states the right to outlaw the medical procedure. It is currently legal for pregnant people in the state to obtain abortions up to the time of “fetal viability” — generally around 24 weeks. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislators also moved in May to codify the right to abortion in the state’s Constitution. The proposed amendment will be on the ballot in November if it passes in the state Assembly this month.
Grace Baxley, a Natomas resident who attended the Capitol protest, said she felt “so thankful” to be living in California. Having relocated from the East Coast, she spent Friday checking in with friends who live in states that could now face abortion bans.
“’They have to ask these questions like, ‘How does this affect us? Should we relocate?’ And I am just really glad that I did,” Baxley said.
At sunset, protesters took to the surrounding streets, marching for about an hour from L to I streets and between Ninth and 12th streets. For the most part, police had the streets closed to vehicles, but at one point protesters surrounded cars and stopped traffic on L Street
Eventually, the group marched down Capitol Mall, and returned to the Capitol to continue chanting pro-choice phrases. Abortion opponents were not seen at either the Capitol or the federal courthouse.
The protests and march attracted people of all ages. Especially vocal were older residents, many of whom had memories from the time before the 1973 ruling.
“I was around when we first won this right,” said Catherine Hourcade, a 74-year-old Stockton resident. “And I’m incensed that it has been taken away from us again.”
Ani Durst, 74, of West Sacramento similarly recalled stories of friends who were forced to have illegal abortions in the pre-Roe era. She remarked that it is both impressive and disheartening to see her generation at Friday’s marches, “still at it.”
“We didn’t think we would be fighting this one again,” Durst said. “It is so hard to see all the things we fought for just turn around.”