A ‘shattering blow’: East Bay leaders react to Supreme Court Roe v. Wade draft

California has strong abortion protections, but 23 states may ban it if the decision becomes final.

Protesters gather on Martin Luther King Jr. Way outside Old City Hall Tuesday evening after a draft Supreme Court decision was leaked that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Credit: Nico Tripcevich

Bay Area officials spoke out against a draft Supreme Court decision leaked Monday that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that federally protects abortion rights this year.

The draft, first reported by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito and says abortion is not a right protected by the constitution and that the 1973 Roe v. Wade and the 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood should be matters of state law.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

Abortions have strong protections in California state law, compared to the 23 states that would immediately ban them if the federal protections are lifted and have existing restrictions on when abortions are allowed. Among these are Mississippi, which has an ongoing Supreme Court case to ban most abortions at 15 weeks, and Texas, which is considered to have the strongest restrictions in the country and limits abortions at as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

Rep. Barbara Lee, who oversees parts of Berkeley and Oakland, emphasized in a statement Tuesday that the draft vote is not an official ruling and the U.S. Senate can support abortion rights by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, which the House approved in September 2021.

“We all knew the odds, but it is nonetheless shocking to see the Supreme Court move towards overturning 50 years of precedent in a stunning revocation of our right to have an abortion,” Lee said. “If accurate, this decision will deal a shattering blow to millions, especially low-income people and women of color.”

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, who also represents Berkeley and the East Bay, said California will be a “beacon for reproductive freedom” and called the SCOTUS vote “outrageous.” And Berkeley State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who famously brought her newborn baby to the assembly floor in 2020 and has publicly shared her own experience with miscarriage and abortion, again spoke to the issue on television Tuesday.

A protest organized by Cal students will be held Wednesday. Credit: Danielle Roseman

“If I were in Texas, and I didn’t have the resources to get on an airplane and come to a place like California, would I just have sat and suffered in pain with excessive bleeding — with the hopes that everything would be OK?” Wicks said on ABC10. “That’s the decision that I think many women are going to be confronted with if Roe versus Wade is overturned.”

Other prominent Berkeley voices rebuking the SCOTUS decision included Cal professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and Berkeley Law professor Khiara M. Bridges, who sounded the alarm in March over the impending loss of abortion protections, and how they would impact vulnerable people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke out against the Supreme Court decision shortly after Politico broke the news Monday, saying on Twitter that the state is “going to fight like hell” against the possible change.

Though the SCOTUS decision is not final, local groups and residents have begun organizing actions to protest the change, with a crowd of a few dozen gathering in Civic Center Park Tuesday evening, slowing traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and holding signs with messages like “Our Bodies Our Choice” and “Over My Dead Body.”

The Alameda Labor Council and other local leaders are holding a rally at 5 p.m. Tuesday in front of the Ronald V. Dellums Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay St., in Oakland, and UC Berkeley students are preparing for a protest in support of abortion rights at 4 p.m. Wednesday in UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza.

“Reproductive rights are a basic human right and we feel like taking bodily autonomy from any citizen is taking 10 steps backwards. We feel like the only way to get attention about this cause is to protest,” said Danielle Roseman, a Cal senior and co-organizer of the protest. “We see this event as an opportunity to have our voices and opinions heard, but also create solidarity within our community.”

Supriya Yelimeli is Berkeleyside's homelessness and housing reporter. Email: supriya@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: SupriyaYelimeli. Phone: 510-585-8315.