About 500 people gathered at the California Capitol on Monday to participate in the third annual “March for Life” rally through Sacramento’s downtown.
Speakers, including Republican Assembly member Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) and Lila Rose, who co-founded the anti-abortion nonprofit Live Action, likened fighting against abortion in California to a “calling” and a “mission” from God for activists.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) addresses the crowd at the third annual March for Life at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on March 7, 2023.Kate Wolffe / CapRadio
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, California has strengthened its pro-choice stance. Last year, voters approved an amendment enshrining the right to an abortion in the state constitution and Governor Gavin Newsom signed laws to protect people seeking the procedure when coming from a more restrictive state.
Monday’s rally began minutes after Newsom tweeted California would cut ties with the retail pharmacy Walgreens, which said Friday it would not distribute mifepristone, one of two pills needed during a medication abortion, in 20 Republican-led states.
“As you can imagine, Gavin Newsom did not have the same reaction that we have, which is celebration,” Allie Beth Stuckey, a conservative commentator, said to the crowd. “It was your raising a respectful but relentless ruckus for the things that matter that finally pressured Walgreens to do the right thing and make it a little bit harder for women to have access to the kind of substances that poison their children.”
Last month, a group of 20 Republican attorneys general warned Walgreens and CVS that distributing mifepristone in their states would be “unsafe and illegal.” The American Medical Association says the pill is safe and effective.
A group of about 15 young counter-protestors assembled for the Monday afternoon event, blasting siren noises through a megaphone and playing loud music. They carried signs saying “Keep Your Policies off Our Bodies” and “Against Abortion? Have a Vasectomy.”
The group was pushed off Capitol grounds by California Highway Patrol officers for disrupting the March for Life’s permitted event, and drew the ire of, among others, a group of three men wearing sweatshirts that showed their affiliation with the far-right Sacramento Proud Boys.
Larkin Dwyer is a 20-year-old Sacramento State student who says she’s been protesting this event each time it has happened. She says the counter-protestors organized over Instagram.
“It's all about bodily autonomy. It's about people making their own choices: women, people that have a uterus, being able to make that decision [of whether or not to have an abortion] for themselves,” she said.
March for Life is a national organization that traces its roots back to January 1974, when people marched on Washington to “find a legislative solution” to Roe v. Wade, the U.S Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion throughout the United States. In January 2020, President Donald Trump spoke at March for Life’s DC rally, becoming the first sitting president to do so.
The organization hosts events throughout the country. At least seven California lawmakers attended Monday’s rally, including Assembly members Joe Patterson (R–Rocklin), Devon Mathis (R–Porterville), Bill Essayli (R–Riverside), Megan Dahle (R–Redding), Tom Lackey (R–Palmdale) and state Senator Brian Dahle (R–El Dorado). The lawmakers flanked Assembly member Jim Patterson as he made his remarks on the Capitol steps.
“We're not going away. We're growing stronger every day,” said Patterson. “And we will continue to live pro-life everywhere we are, in every set of circumstances, because we are going to be a witness for life and there will be saved babies.”
Legislators are currently holding hearings for a number of new bills having to do with protecting the rights of people seeking abortions, including efforts to limit misleading information distributed by crisis pregnancy centers, expand who can provide abortions and curtail data requests by law enforcement.
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