May 04, 2022

Times of San Diego: ‘Gut Punch’: 3 Congress Members Tell Abortion Allies How They Really Feel

Rep. Mike Levin said he was “angry and disgusted.” Rep. Scott Peters saw it as “something out of some horror/sci-fi movie.” Rep. Sara Jacobs described a “gut punch.” And county Supervisor Nora Vargas admitted being “pissed.”

Twenty-four hours after stunning news dropped about a draft opinion of the U.S Supreme Court spelling the end to a half-century of legal abortion in America, top Democrats channeled rage at a downtown rally Tuesday.

But it was Loxie Gant, a 36-year-old activist for children, who offered perhaps the most heartfelt reaction to the potential overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

“The shock of seeing what came out yesterday was not shock. It was guilt,” the Pacific Beach resident told a crowd of 300 near the federal courthouses. “How did we get to this place? How did we get to ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and Gilead not being science fiction?”

While ACLU and Planned Parenthood leaders called attention to the gravity of the moment — and politicians urged congressional action — Gant made an emotional appeal from experience.

“We need to no longer underestimate our power,” she said. “You need to vote, but you also need to run. We need YOU to run for office. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t win. Stand up there on a podium and challenge the people next to you to talk about these hard topics. “

She added: “Fight like hell.”

Gant once came close to qualifying as a write-in candidate for San Diego school board. She harbored ambitions to run for San Diego City Council. She fell short of being elected to the county Democratic Party Central Committee.

But most notably, she and several others sued the San Diego Unified School District over unwanted touching by a physics teacher when they were students at La Jolla High School starting about 20 years ago. That case, filed in June 2020, is inching toward a Superior Court trial in April 2023.

Acting as an emcee at the Indivisible-sponsored event, Gant shared what motivated her now: “Because my daughter, and all of our descendants to come, and all of your daughters and your loved ones and our trans allies and our families all deserve better.”

Call-and-response slogans were shouted. A banner behind the speakers warned: “Bans off our bodies.” The sign-carrying crowd was urged to “organize, not agonize.”

Vernita Gutierrez of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest warned that Republicans and other anti-abortion activists wouldn’t stop with banning abortions.

“Next time they’ll come for our access to birth control, our right to marry whoever we please, our rights to bodily autonomy,” she said. “We’re not backing down. And we’re going to continue to fight for all people to decide if and when to start a family.”

David Trujillo, chief programs and strategy officer of the local ACLU, noted that the high court has overturned precedents in the past.

“But virtually always it has done so to expand rights — not take them away,” he said. “The breach in protocol in the court pales in comparison to the breach in constitutional freedoms that the court is charged with upholding.”

One activist, voice breaking, took the microphone and apologized.

“I’m so embarrassed to say I cleaned out my trunk during the COVID, and I threw out my Planned Parenthood posters because I never thought we would be fighting this again,” she said. “And I’m sorry.”

With three San Diego City Council members attending — Raul Campillo, Marni von Wilpert and Stephen Whitburn — the 45-minute rally included a march west on Broadway.

Supervisor Vargas, summarizing her remarks in Spanish, noted how her board voted 3-1 last September to make San Diego County a “freedom of choice county.”

She offered a different spin on the abortion-rights battle.

“Let’s talk about what this is really about,” said Vargas, who a quarter-century ago helped found California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “If you are a woman with access to money, you’ll be able to get an abortion anywhere. Anywhere.”

But, she said: “If you are a woman of color, if you are low income, you don’t have access to transportation, you live in Texas, Arizona, Utah — where are you going to get an abortion?”
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Making an apparent reference to Sacramento efforts, Vargas said: “We’re going to create a fund, and we’re going to have you come to California and we’re going to protect you.”

The three Democratic members of Congress (Rep. Juan Vargas the lone absentee) shared their own personal takes, but joined in calling for the codification of Roe vs. Wade (but only if the Senate sheds the filibuster).

“Welcome to 1972. I was there,” Peters said, prompting laughter. “I’m really sorry to be back.”

He said efforts that states might make to ban abortion after rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake were “nothing short of barbaric.”

Saying nearly half the states seem headed in that direction, Peters claimed: “They want neighbors to report neighbors to law enforcement like something out of some horror/sci-fi movie.”

“It’s not pro-life, it’s anti-family,” he said. “And by the way, it’s anti-freedom. … They want to force children who are victims of rape and incest to give birth to those babies, terrorizing that child again. That’s not pro-child. That’s pro-child cruelty.”

He urged Democrats to stop fighting among themselves.

“And it’s not just abortion rights, folks. As drafted, (Justice Samuel) Alito’s argument lays out a perilous outline for future assaults on cherished rights that have long been rooted in the constitutional right to privacy,” Peters said.

First-term colleague Jacobs assailed “five radical judges” who think they “know more about my body than I do.”

Using a crowd-pleasing line, Jacobs said: “As one of the very few women of reproductive age in Congress, and the only woman to represent San Diego in Congress, I can tell you it’s personal — because reproductive health care is my health care.”

She called for the right to abortion being made the law of the land (along with marriage equality).
“It’s time for we in Congress do our job,” she said. “Take the day. Be mad. Then shake it off” and elect a “truly pro-choice majority” in the House and Senate “willing to do what it takes to pass these laws.”
Levin called the potential court decision a disgrace.

“This is an inflection point,” he said. “We have about six months before the November election. And if you didn’t think this was the most important election of our lifetimes, I hope that the last 24 hours have reinforced that.”

After the rally, Levin was asked if women’s anger over losing abortion rights might translate into help keep Congress from flipping red.

“The obituary was being written far too prematurely,” he told Times of San Diego, saying Republicans could be defeated by challenging them on what they’d do with “the gavel” as a majority party — rather letting them attack Democrats on a “handful of issues.”

Levin said GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida talked about “sunsetting Social Security, Medicare in five years” and raising taxes on people making less than $100,000 a year.

“He’s not some random senator saying that,” he said. “That’s who Trump actually wants to be the next majority leader” in the Senate.

(Actually, Scott proposed that “all federal legislation” expire after five years, and let such laws be reviewed for re-enactment. And his plan didn’t specify income level but said: “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount.” )

Could an end-to-Roe decision — and energized liberal support — be pivotal for Levin in his tough 49th District race?

“My concern is not with the electoral aspects of this,” he said. “It’s with the actual opportunity in the next several weeks to communicate with the justices in any way that we can – if they’re willing to listen — that this decision is fundamentally wrong — legally, constitutionally wrong.

“And if they do … make this the final decision, my focus will then be on our friends in the Senate.”
Ellen Montanari, a former Town Hall organizer for Levin, helped produce Tuesday’s rally. The Encinitas resident is active with Indivisible49.

At rally’s end, Montanari issued marching orders. They included phoning Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla “to break the filibuster,” calling friends in Arizona and West Virginia to urge their Democratic senators to do the same. “And get friends and family out to vote.

“I am 68 years old,” she said. “I’m not having any more babies. But when I was a teenager, abortion was illegal. You remember what it was like. Be upset today. Cry today. Be angry today. Scream today. Tomorrow, we get to work.”


By:  Ken Stone
Source: Times of San Diego