‘We refuse to go back.’ Newsom announces West Coast partnership to protect abortion rights

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving the issue of whether to outlaw abortions to the states.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m sorry as well, I’m a little less sorry than I am pissed. A little less sorry than I am resolved and angry to do more and to do better,” Newsom said in remarks.

In Modesto, more than 100 demonstrators gathered Friday evening in front of Planned Parenthood on lower McHenry Avenue to protest the court’s decision. Drivers in passing cars honked horns in support. As of about 90 minutes into Friday’s protest, there were no demonstrators in support of the court’s decision.

“We’ve had this right for a long freaking time, and now we don’t,” said Modesto attorney and Democratic activist Lisa Battista, who organized Friday’s demonstration. “This is going to disproportionately affect poor people and people of color.”

Newsom appeared at a press conference alongside his wife, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, legislative leaders and abortion rights advocates to reassure Californians that the Golden State would remain a haven for people seeking abortions.

The Democratic governor used the occasion to sign Assembly Bill 1666 into law, shielding people seeking abortion providers and those seeking care in California from civil actions brought by other states.

Earlier on Friday, Newsom and his Democratic counterparts, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, announced a commitment to defend access to reproductive health care, including abortions and contraceptives, as well as protecting the privacy and rights of both patients and doctors who might face prosecution or civil liability from other states.

“We will not sit on the sidelines and allow patients who seek reproductive care in our states, or the doctors that provide that care, to be intimidated with criminal prosecution,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the partnership. “We refuse to go back and we will fight like hell to protect our rights and our values.”

First Partner, state leaders on Dobbs decision

Newsom and other leaders who spoke were somber and visibly emotional as they discussed the Supreme Court decision and what it will mean for Californians.

Siebel Newsom, the first speaker, was tearful as she approached the podium to speak, turning to her husband for a hug before beginning her remarks.

“This is toxic masculinity at work in the highest court in the country,” she said. “Domination and control of women, and women’s bodily autonomy, is so deeply ingrained in the patriarchy that unfortunately still rules our country.”

Bonta said he will “use the full authority of my office to protect reproductive healthcare” and reiterated that Californians still have abortion rights. Like the governor, Bonta said he’s motivated to “fight like hell” to protect abortion rights for his daughters.

“Today’s decision does not impact our state’s laws and your right to choose within our borders and in other states that protect reproductive freedom,” Bonta said. “You have a right to an abortion here. You have the right to an abortion before viability without a reason. You have the right to an abortion after viability to protect your life or your health. You have the right to obtain an abortion without parental consent.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, said the Legislature is working to enact policies to further protect abortion rights, including AB 1666 and Senate Constitutional Amendment 10.

California lawmakers are in the process of considering SCA 10, which would enshrine the right to an abortion in the California constitution. The bill has already passed out of the Senate, and the Assembly will consider it on Monday.

Two-thirds of legislators must approve the SCA 10 by June 30 to ensure it appears on the November general election ballot.

However, the California Family Council applauded the Supreme Court’s decision and urged lawmakers to “stop their misguided efforts to transform the Golden State into a taxpayer-funded abortion sanctuary.”

“With a historic budget surplus and world-class medical facilities, we have so much more to offer the rest of the nation than free abortions,” President Jonathan Keller said in a statement.

Newsom: Same-sex marriage threats ‘worst-case scenario’

Newsom said the Supreme Court decision sends the message the same people who oppose abortion will continue targeting decisions protecting vulnerable groups, including the LGBTQ community.

“This is not just about women,” he said. “This is not just about choice, is not just about reproductive freedom. They’re coming after you next.”

The governor referred to a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas, who said the justices “should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents” stemming from the Roe v. Wade right-to-privacy argument.

Among the opinions Thomas raised for reconsideration was Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage. He also noted Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 decision allowing married couples to use contraception, and Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision that made same-sex relationships legal.

Newsom said he could foresee adding future state constitutional amendments, like SCA 10, to protect groups made vulnerable by the Dobbs decision.

“To see all the progress and to now see a Supreme Court justice that ... expressed with clarity that not just Griswold, not just Lawrence, but the advances we made on same-sex marriage should be reconsidered by this court is the worst-case scenario,” he said. “That’s the moment we’re living in.”

Modesto Bee reporter Kevin Valine contributed to this report.

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