Almost 50 years after Roe v. Wade recognized freedom of reproductive choice for women, Beverly Hills locals took to the streets to protect that right. Nearly 300 people from near and far attended the Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom in Beverly Hills on Oct. 2 in protest of the Texas six-week abortion ban, known as Senate Bill 8. Men and women of all ages gathered at Beverly Gardens Park, holding signs that read “Our bodies are not political battlefields,” “Ruth sent us,” and “My uterus has more regulations than your guns,” among others, as cars driving down Santa Monica Boulevard honked in support. Speakers included Mayor Robert Wunderlich, attorney Gloria Allred, and 18-year-old Paxton Smith, who graduated in June from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas. As valedictorian, Smith gained national attention after she tore up her approved graduation speech and instead spoke out against her state’s new law.
Nationwide, over 600 similar Women’s March events took place over the weekend, including in Downtown L.A., Long Beach, West Hollywood, Pasadena, Malibu, Van Nuys, and several Orange County communities. The event was organized by longtime Beverly Hills resident, Colleen Rabin. According to Rabin, 299 people registered to attend Saturday’s sign holding event.
“I hosted the BH rally because now is a crucial time to speak up for reproductive freedom,” Rabin told the Courier. “We shouldn’t have to fight for Women’s Rights 50 years after Roe v. Wade! I don’t want young women to experience what it is like to live during an era when women don’t have the option of a safe and legal abortion but are forced to give birth.”
Now known for filing high-profile sexual abuse and discrimination lawsuits, Allred has represented Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) in Roe v. Wade and in 1995, the family of Nicole Brown Simpson in the OJ Simpson murder trial. Standing at a podium in front of the lily pond, Allred shared with the crowd her own experience of having a back-alley abortion in California in the 1960s after she was raped at gunpoint in Mexico. “We are here today to send a message [to] the U.S. Supreme Court to keep abortions safe and legal,” Allred told the cheering crowd. “I’m just excited to be here in Beverly Hills and see all of you. You know, shopping is a great thing in Beverly Hills, but activism is even better.”
Held two days ahead of the Supreme Court reconvening, organizers hoped to influence justices to uphold Roe v. Wade in advance of a Mississippi case attempting to prohibit all abortions after 15 weeks. “We’re going to send the Supreme Court and lawmakers across the country a clear, unified message. The attack on our reproductive rights will not be tolerated,” states the Women’s March website.
Alongside Allred, Smith, the Texas teenager, addressed the crowd and encouraged their efforts. “We cannot, we will not, go back to the days where the only way to end a pregnancy is to risk our lives, or go back to the days where the only way to access our reproductive rights was through a coat hanger,” Smith told the crowd. “We are not a vessel for reproduction, we are human beings. And it’s about time we get treated like it. The tentacles of this nation are freedom, liberty, and equality, and when a government turns its back on those principles, we will not stay silent about it.”