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‘Abortions won’t stop, women will die.’ Reproductive rights fight hits Modesto corner

Watch women’s rights and pro-choice advocates rally in Modesto

Women's rights and pro-choice advocates rallied in Modesto, California on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The event was organized by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Women's March Modesto and the Democratic Women's Club of Stanislaus County.
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Women's rights and pro-choice advocates rallied in Modesto, California on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The event was organized by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Women's March Modesto and the Democratic Women's Club of Stanislaus County.

Saying they fought and won the battle before and are outraged at having to do it again, women gathered at a major Modesto intersection during the lunch hour Tuesday for a rally dubbed My Body, My Choice.

MBMC is a nationwide campaign for abortion rights. The Modesto event coincided with similar rallies in other parts of the country, said Patty Hughes, one of the rally organizers and founder and president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Stanislaus County.

About 15 minutes into the gathering, which spread across all four corners of Briggsmore and McHenry avenues, about 50 women, men and youth were holding signs — and in a few cases, wire hangers — and the number looked to be growing.

The rally came at a time when legislation is advancing in several states that challenges the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that set a precedent for abortion rights in the U.S.

“In 1972, I held signs for women’s reproductive rights,” Robin Jones said. “In 2019, I’m out here doing the same damn s--- again. This is nothing more than an assault on women, to keep women under control. They’re going to systematically try to chop away at women’s health care, and we will not let that happen.

“Abortions won’t stop; women will die. And the majority will be women of color and poor women, because white women will make sure they go somewhere to get the abortion” safely and discreetly, Jones added. “We might as well be up there with Sharia law.”

Jones and other older women who turned out Tuesday said they’re fighting not so much for themselves, but future generations. “Never again. We did it once, and our daughters and granddaughters don’t need to be doing this,” Susan Goodman said. “We fought this — how is it we’re going back?”

Women in California are fortunate to have a progressive legislature, governor and constitutional officers who understand and respect their right to govern their own bodies, Hughes said. Those at the Modesto rally, she said, join with millions of women’s rights advocates and pro-choice women and men across the country to speak out against the attempt to overturn Roe. v. Wade.

“Women’s health, rights and lives are at stake,” Hughes said. “We need to send a clear message to Washington and every state legislature that politicians need to mind their own business and stay away from trying to control women’s bodies.”

Last week, Alabama enacted the nation’s strictest abortion law, making performing it a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions.

Georgia , Kentucky , Mississippi and Ohio have passed laws that prohibit abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Missouri and Louisiana are close to enacting similar bans.

None of the laws has taken effect, and all are expected to be blocked while legal challenges work their way through the courts.

Many states allow abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. States like California and New York are at 24 weeks or longer.

Tuesday’s rally was supported by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Women’s March Modesto and the Democratic Women’s Club of Stanislaus. The demonstrators were met with dozens of horn honks and at least a few tire squeals from apparently distracted motorists. One woman stopped at a red light rolled down her windows to give the demonstrators two thumbs up.

Socorro Santillan, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said at the rally, “I had the privilege of having Planned Parenthood to help me make important decisions for my family, which has made my husband and me the best parents we can be. And I want the same for my daughters and my son.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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