Locals took part in the “Burbank March for Reproductive Freedom” along the Burbank Chandler Bike Path on Saturday, Sept. 4, to challenge a controversial Texas abortion law that went into effect on Sept. 1.
Senate Bill 8 is the Texas law that prompted the event. The bill bans women from undergoing abortions past six weeks into their pregnancy and holds no exemptions in the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. This ordinance also allows private citizens to report violations and sue those who have carried out or received abortions past this six-week mark for a minimum sum of $10,000.
The Burbank Progressives Facebook group led the march, which began at 10 a.m. and consisted of a route from Mariposa St. to Hollywood Way and back. Protestors wore masks and maintained social distancing guidelines as they together promoted reproductive rights.
Aimee Powers, Administrator, and moderator of the Burbank Progressives Facebook group received a message from Burbank City Councilmember Konstantine Anthony mentioning that locals had been inquiring about a potential protest after the news broke that the law would be upheld in Texas. Powers then organized the gathering, consulted with City staff to ensure following the proper protocols, and spread the word through social media. She says the march had a “positive, family-friendly” atmosphere, with strong encouragement received from participants as well as vehicles and bikers passing by.
A 2019 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll showed that over three-fourths of Americans want to maintain the ruling of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed women the right to an abortion without excessive government restrictions. The approval of the new Texas bill directly contradicts this popular opinion and has subsequently been met with outrage across the country.
Burbank residents and leaders emerged on Saturday to voice their dissatisfaction over the measure, including Burbank City Councilmembers Nick Schultz and Konstantine Anthony, and State Senator Anthony Portantino.
“The news of this abortion ban coming out of Texas has shocked the nation,” Anthony said. “Burbank residents are outraged not just for our friends and family living in the Lone Star State, but for the millions of people whose basic control over their own bodies has been stripped away. This law is a signal that the assault on Roe v. Wade has begun, and we will not stand for it.”
In 2019, CNN ran an article describing the many reasons a person may not even realize they’re pregnant until after six weeks into the pregnancy, including the unpredictable nature of menstrual cycles and a lack of anticipation of becoming pregnant. Schultz voiced his opposition to the law due to this improper time frame of the abortion ban and the overall antiquated regulations that make up the bill.
“The egregious Texas law is an assault on women and their right to reproductive freedom,” Schultz said. “The lack of exceptions, even for rape and incest, to the near-total ban on abortions proves the draconian and offensive nature of this law. The intent of this law is clear – it’s not about the health of the mother or the welfare of the unborn child. This law places an unfair burden on women by essentially banning abortions before many women even know they are pregnant.”
Around 30 to 40 people attended the march, which both Anthony and Schultz promoted prior to Saturday via their Twitter accounts. Schultz further expressed the importance of men in positions of authority speaking up and showing support for reproductive freedom when unjust measures pose a threat to progressive gender policies.
“I believe that it is not anyone’s place, especially men in positions of power, to tell women what they can do with their bodies or what medical procedures are available to them,” Schultz added. “We all have an obligation to speak out when we see injustice in the world, and this law is inarguably an injustice.”
The urgency of protests like this one is quickly ascending, as Texas isn’t the only state looking to limit abortion options. Axios reports that over a dozen states have attempted to implement similar laws and predicts they could again try to pass their own abortion bans following the successful outcome of the Texas abortion measure.
“Unless Congress acts to protect the right to choose at the federal level, many of the gains women have made inequality and economic freedom in this country will be lost,” Powers said. “It’s time to finally stop putting ‘women’s issues’ on the back burner and prioritize making the right to reproductive freedom, equal pay, and paid family leave, as well as universal healthcare, voting rights, and economic protections…the law of the land once and for all.”
Aside from a general attack on reproductive rights, activists have been concerned that the bill will also disproportionately impact women of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Reports show that women of color are more likely to face unintended pregnancy due to a lack of access to effective contraception, and black women are three times as likely to undergo an abortion, while Hispanic women are twice times as likely to, according to Guttmacher Institute. The institute also explains that poor women more often report dissatisfaction with their contraception provider and the contraception methods available to them.
In addition, Abortion Access for LGBTQ People states that the LGBTQ+ community is more likely to face poverty and therefore rely on health clinics that would be shut down as a result of the law. This would consequently limit the control LGBTQ+ people have over their reproductive choices.
“Reproductive freedom is a key factor in economic freedom for women and families as well as equality for women and dismantling white supremacy,” Powers said. “It’s important to remember that reproductive freedom doesn’t only apply to women. Everyone with a uterus, including trans men and non-binary people, are impacted by restrictive anti-choice laws.”
While negative judgment may still be directed towards those who seek out abortions due to unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, events like the march on Saturday help break the stigmas that go along with the subject. Powers recommends reading books such as “The Lie That Binds” by Ellie Langford and Illyse Hogue to educate oneself on the anti-choice movement and recognize that reproductive freedom is an important right for all genders.
“Abortion isn’t a shameful thing or something to regret,” Powers said. “It’s a medical decision that should be made by the pregnant person with advice from their doctor, based on what is best for them, their mental health, their physical health, their economic health, and any other reasons that are important to them. Protecting the right to reproductive freedom isn’t only important for women, it’s important for our society as a whole.”