On Saturday, several dozen local men, women and children gathered at Redding’s Riverfront Park in support of abortion access for women across the United States.
Organized by the Redding chapter of The Women’s March, the local event was one of approximately 600 gatherings across the United States held in response to recent anti-abortion legislation passed in Texas. The Texas law, which restricts all abortions after approximately six weeks, is the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country. The bill is unique because it allows any individual to sue a person aiding in obtaining an abortion, including abortion providers. It went into effect last month.
Speakers at Saturday’s event expressed concern that the new Texas abortion law is emboldening other states to enact their own laws to restrict women’s access to abortions. In North Dakota, Indiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Florida and Arkansas, legislators have recently expressed interest in passing similar laws.
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas has said the new law will save lives by stopping abortions, but speakers at Saturday’s event said it will only make access to abortions more difficult and dangerous for women.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, twenty-four percent of United States women will obtain an abortion by the time they’re forty-five, and fifty-eight percent of woman of childbearing age in the United States live in states hostile to abortion access. Nationwide, 49 percent of women who receive abortions live below the federal poverty level.
Autumn Bolden, 15, attended the event carrying a sign depicting women she views as role models. For her, abortion access is about equality and the unequal burden society places on girls and women to prevent pregancy.
“They push birth control on young women instead of on boys or men. Girls always have to get birth control,” she says, “instead of boys owning up.”
Bolden said as a young woman she is frequently confronted with barriers to equality including discriminatory policies such as school dress codes. And she said she’s faced frequent demeaning comments from male students at her former Catholic school. “Boys would always say women aren’t as strong, women aren’t as fast,” Bolden says, “I would say, “Look at your mom! Would you say that to your mom?”
Another attendee at the event, Rachel W., who asked that her last name not be used, says even as a Californian, the new Texas law restricts her access and her rights. “As a young person, I would love to be able to move about the United States and experience more of my country without fear of not being able to get basic medical care,” Rachel says. Her concerns about access to abortion echo a rallying cry for abortion access, “abortion is health care.”
Six out of ten Americans currently support abortion access, according to a Pew Research study conducted in April 2021 that randomly sampled over 5000 Americans. Abortion access will come before the Supreme Court again this year in a case concerning a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Should that case overturn Roe v. Wade, so-called “trigger laws” in approximately ten states would immediately make abortion illegal in those jurisdictions as well. Another 12 states would likely quickly follow in legislating against abortion access.
Locally, surgical abortions are only provided at Women’s Health Specialists. Women’s Health Specialists Redding, Chico, and Grass Valley branches have been in operation for more than 45 years and are the only independent women’s clinics in the North State. They provide abortions, birth control, STD testing, adoptions and other health care for women and their families.
Staff member Holly Stark said she’s excited to give more people the opportunity to learn about abortion. “A lot of people need the facts,” she said, “and at the same time we need to get rid of the stigma surrounding abortion.”
According to a statement recently released by Executive Director Katrina Cantrell, the Women’s Health Specialists Redding clinic has been firebombed three times, vandalized repeatedly, and “remains the target of threats and weekly demonstrations.”
But Women’s Health Specialists Clinic Manger Gloria Barreto, who spoke at Saturday’s event, said while the clinic has faced some increased protest activity from anti-abortion activists since the Texas law, staff members are not intimidated.
“We’re going to keep our doors open for anyone that comes in,” Barreto said, “We stand with all our sisters and we are here for them.”