By Kate Quach
With a click of the television remote, Arianna Luther awakened to the busy chatter of early morning news. Sprawled across the screen before her were protesters hoisting banners and signs outside of the U.S Supreme Court, chanting in response to the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“It felt very wrong, and it felt crazy, almost like we’re in an alternate universe,” Luther said.
Less than a day later, on June 24, on a sunny Friday afternoon, she lifted her own sign amidst crowds of protesters at San Francisco’s City Hall, joining calls against the restriction and removal of abortion access in many states across the United States.
Luther, a resident of the Richmond District and high school student, joined one of the hundreds of protests that reverberated across the nation after Supreme Court justices voted 5-4 to overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that previously secured the right to safe abortions. Living in a city and state that have steadily reaffirmed abortion and sexual healthcare rights in the aftermath, Luther could not stay silent.
“I don’t want to just let the sadness overtake me and just sit at home and do nothing,” she said. “Whenever I saw that there were rallies happening, I wanted to go and support as much as I could.”
Luther encouraged her friend, Lian Mar, also a high school student, to march alongside her in the protest.
“When I was at the rally, I felt empowered because a lot of people around me also had the same sense of anger, denial and distrust in the Supreme Court,” said Mar, who lives in the Sunset District.
The thought of the possible hardships of obtaining safe abortion care that other people living outside of California had to face was a main catalyst to Mar’s participation.
“Women who are suffering in different states need to go through a lot of circumstances just to get an abortion,” Mar said. “I just reflected on how unfair that was in this society.”
The protest to restore legal abortion nationwide began on June 24 in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building at the Civic Center. More than 3,000 people united in the march down Market Street and to the Embarcadero, gathering at the Ferry Building.
While stepping with the music blasting throughout the rally, Luther and Mar raised a cardboard sign they decorated with colorful markers.
“Abortion is a Human Right,” it declared. Above the girls’ heads was a multitude of similarly striking signs with echoing messages, including: “Hands Off Our Bodies” and “My Body, My Choice.” Many protesters also wore the color green, the worldwide symbol of abortion rights inspired by Argentinian demonstrators.
“Activism in San Francisco and in California is definitely very powerful,” Mar said.
District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar accompanied his daughter Lian in the protest, adding that the “unity of everyone who came together spontaneously” for the march represented for him an inspiring act for change.
Recounting the gravity of the rally experienced, Supervisor Mar sensed a rising feeling of hope. In the coming months, he will be looking for the passion displayed by community members to imprint on the state legislature, advocating for the passage of State Constitutional Amendment 10. The bill – which passed in the Assembly on June 27 and will be on the November ballot – aims to explicitly protect access to abortion and contraception in California’s State Constitution.
“It’s starting to prepare for supporting women from other parts of the country who may likely come (to California) for reproductive health care,” said the Sunset District supervisor.
In the same crowd of San Franciscans, members of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights demonstrated with a billowing green banner stretched above their heads. These Bay Area members represented a national organization that urges the demand for abortion rights with disruptive action and civil disobedience. Jayce, a youth activist, and a protest organizer for the group, contributes to the creation of attention-grabbing posters and rallying support among the younger generations.
Jayce emphasized the importance of activism in their age group.
“People, especially in this generation, are a lot more open to the idea that this doesn’t have to be the reality that we have to live in,” they said.
The youth leader recalled speaking with other young activists about showing up for protests despite having initial fears about joining in on the movement.
“It gave me the sense that I am not the only person my age who is doing this,” Jayce added, “I am not alone in this.”
Reiko Redmonde, a leader with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, is a longtime activist. She witnessed a surge in the number of protesters once the overruling of Roe v. Wade was announced. As she marched with the organization through the Hayes Valley restaurant district, she saw diners leave their tables to raise their fists in the rally. Though more people have gotten up from their seats to lend their voices to the chant, Redmonde said she also feels the issue may need more fuel than just first-time experiences.
“I worry that if we do not seize this moment, this will become part of the normal state of affairs,” Redmonde said.
As the protests and fight for abortion rights continue to take to the streets of San Francisco, Luther recognized the same work is continuing on nationwide, an image which gives her renewed motivation to continue moving forth as a youth activist.
“Whenever you see 100 people in one place doing something, there are hundreds more in another place that are doing something, too,” she said.
“Even if it feels like you’re just pushing a boulder up the hill, and there’s no end in sight, there’s going to be so many other people who are ready and willing to push that boulder with you.”
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