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San Diego County politicians geared up for battle after a leaked draft opinion revealed that the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade, ending federal protection for abortion rights.

“With the staggering scope and breadth of the opinion that was released, demonstrating one of the greatest assaults on individual freedom and personal choice in our entire lifetime, we as a community must stand up and fight back,” San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said at a press conference at the San Diego County Administrative Center Tuesday.

“We want to make clear to the people of San Diego that San Diego County is and will remain, regardless of this ruling, a place where we respect and embrace that right to choose,” he said.

The draft opinion, published Monday by Politico, revealed that the court appears poised to reverse the landmark 1973 opinion Roe v. Wade, which upheld a woman’s right to abortion without government restrictions. Its publication galvanized leaders on both sides of the debate; advocates for abortion rights mobilized against the potential repeal of Roe v. Wade, while abortion opponents decried the leaked document and condemned efforts to uphold legal abortions.

Advocates for abortion and other reproductive rights said they were dismayed, but not surprised by the draft ruling, noting they have long anticipated challenges to Roe v. Wade.

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“For three decades, I have been at the forefront of the reproductive justice movement, and for over a decade at Planned Parenthood, we were trying to prepare for this day,” Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Nora Vargas said at the press conference.

Several hundred people gathered in the early evening for an abortion rights rally outside the downtown San Diego federal courthouse, where they listened to speakers from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, as well as members of Congress and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-San Diego, called it “a gut punch” to see the court’s decision in writing, saying it was personal to her as she is “one of the very few women of reproductive age in Congress.”

“Reproductive health care is my health care,” Jacobs said, adding that it was insulting that “Five radical judges think they know more about my body than I do.”

Behind the speakers, several women held a roughly 15-foot banner that read: “Bans off our bodies.” A young girl held a sign that said “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights.”

Several posters and a large yellow flag played off the Gadsden flag, with two coiled snakes shaped into a uterus above the slogan “Don’t tread on me.”

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, told the crowd that “Banning an abortion after rape (or) incest, when the life of the mother is at stake, is nothing short of barbaric.”

Peters said that “Republicans don’t only want to ban abortion, they want to criminalize it in a way that punishes women who seek one.”

“It’s not pro-life, it’s anti-family,” Peters said. “And by the way, it’s anti-freedom.”

One of the rally’s organizer’s, Loxie Gant, who works with child sexual abuse victims, led the rally in two primal screams. Vargas led the group in a chant, asking, “Abortion is what?” Rally attendees shouted back, “Health care.”

Following the publication of the draft ruling Monday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders announced that they will ask California voters to approve a state constitutional amendment enshrining women’s right to choose the procedure. On Tuesday, Fletcher and Vargas applauded that announcement and vowed to support state efforts to codify abortion rights.

Abortion foes also responded to the governor’s announcement. The California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Roman Catholic Church in the state, issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the plan for a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights.

“This will destroy lives, families and significantly limit the ability of the Catholic Church in California to protect the unborn,” the group stated, voicing the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion. “This the moment for the Church and its 12 million Catholics to engage with their communities, actively and publicly oppose this amendment, and fulfill our baptismal responsibility to protect life at every stage, and at every opportunity.”

Democratic members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation lauded the governor’s announcement and urged federal lawmakers to take action to codify abortion protections in U.S. law.

“While we wait for the Court’s official decision, Congress must take this issue into our own hands,” said Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano. “I was proud to cosponsor and vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade protections into law. Now, the Senate must do its part and make an exception to the filibuster to pass this critical legislation.”

Some Republican lawmakers argued that the leak itself is the most egregious issue. Rep. Darrell Issa, D-Bonsall, said in a statement that the leaked draft opinion poses a risk to the nation’s highest court.

“The truth is, obstructing a judicial proceeding is a crime, as is the willful intimidation of the Justices,” Issa stated. “If that is the objective of this leak, it must not succeed. I will always stand for life and defend the unborn. But no matter one’s personal views on this issue, we are all Americans and we all share an equal stake in the integrity of the Supreme Court.”

Fletcher said he saw those concerns as ironic, arguing that the Supreme Court is protecting the privacy of its deliberations while undermining the privacy rights of American women.

The supervisors said restrictions on abortion access will disproportionately affect some groups, including young and low-income women and women of color. Other local leaders said they will address the effects of a potential Supreme Court ruling on some of those groups specifically.

“I plan to bring forward a resolution on this issue next week to let the students of San Diego Unified know that we have their backs, and they will continue to have access to all their reproductive rights, no matter what happens in Washington,” Sabrina Bazzo, vice president of the San Diego Unified School District Board, said in a statement.

At the county press conference, Vernita Gutieerez, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood, said the organization is preparing for an influx of women who will travel to California if a Supreme Court ruling validates abortion restrictions in their home states. She said Planned Parenthood and other groups are considering how to assist patients not only with efforts to obtain an abortion, but also with transportation, accommodations and childcare.

“I will do everything I can in partnership with the chair and my colleagues to make sure that every San Diegan continues to understand that this is going to be a priority for us,” Vargas said. “And I will also say to anyone who lives outside of California that you can travel to San Diego and you’re going to have access to safe, legal abortions.”

Vargas and Fletcher said they plan to introduce additional board measures in coming weeks to reinforce their support for abortion rights. Vargas said the county will also consider ways to share information about resources with patients seeking abortions or other reproductive services.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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