Silicon Valley congresswomen urge fight for abortion rights

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Furious over the likely imminent reversal of landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, more than a dozen Silicon Valley politicians — including Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren — gathered Friday to urge elected officials, the Supreme Court and voters to take a stand against what they fear could snowball into a massive curtailing of Americans’ rights.

In the days after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion indicating the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, Eshoo and Lofgren, both Democrats, painted a grim picture of an America where all rights rooted in privacy, from the right to gay marriage to the right to contraception, are at risk. At the same time, they reaffirmed Silicon Valley and California’s stance as a safe-haven for women seeking an abortion, as the region braces for an expected flood of out-of-state patients.

But Lofgren paired that affirmation with a stark warning: California can only do so much to protect women, she said, warning that if Republicans gain control of the House and Senate, abortion soon could be outlawed in all 50 states.

“Elections have consequences. And American women are about to suffer those consequences,” she said. “So we need to wake up, get busy, organize and stop this.”

Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and Lofgren (D-San Jose) were joined outside Mountain View City Hall by more than a dozen women politicians from around Silicon Valley, including Mountain View City Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga, Santa Clara County Supervisor and San Jose mayoral candidate Cindy Chavez and Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale. They came together after the draft opinion leaked earlier this week, threatening the case that has guaranteed women a constitutional right to an abortion since 1973. The leak has sparked an outcry across the Bay Area and California, with protests erupting on the streets, California moving to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, and Santa Clara County voting to pour $3 million into the local Planned Parenthood’s coffers to help serve patients from states where abortion is illegal.

If the Supreme Court ruling becomes official, abortion likely will be curtailed in 26 states — meaning 36 million women, or nearly half the country’s women of reproductive age, will lose access to abortions, Eshoo said. Low-income and minority women will be especially impacted, she said.

“This was something that couldn’t have, wouldn’t happen. But it did,” Eshoo said. “For the very first time in the history of our country, the Supreme Court is poised to take a right away. This is unprecedented and this decision will have devastating impacts.”

After Texas made almost all abortions illegal last year, Eshoo and Lofgren backed the federal Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to an abortion. The bill passed in the House, and Eshoo on Friday urged the Senate to take action, saying “I don’t think there’s ever been a time that’s more urgent.”

It’s unlikely Democrats can muster the votes to move the bill through the Senate, where Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for a vote next week.

“I’m not optimistic,” Lofgren admitted. But, she said, the majority of Americans favor abortion rights. “If 70% of the people think one thing and the Congress does something else, two things can happen,” she said. “One, they can be dissuaded from their course, or two, they can be replaced.”

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party also adopted a resolution Friday condemning the draft Supreme Court decision.

“Abortion care is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right. We won’t stand by while women, here or elsewhere, suffer the grim consequences of abortion bans and restrictions,” Chair Bill James wrote in a statement. He invited pro-choice supporters to join in a National Day of Action at San Jose City Hall at 11 am Saturday, May 14.

The Bay Area already has been feeling the impact of restrictions on abortion elsewhere, said Lauren Babb, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which serves part of Northern California and Nevada.

“We have been preparing for this moment for a long time,” Babb said.

Lauren Babb, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, stands flanked by Silicon Valley politicians on Friday, May 6, 2022, as she vows to continue expanding abortion services. A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion revealed the court’s plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Marisa Kendall/Bay Area News Group)

Since Texas outlawed most abortions in July, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte has seen 80 patients from out of state — 70% of whom came to Santa Clara County, Babb said.

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