A Santa Barbara Women’s March on Jan. 22 — the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case protecting the right to abortion that was overturned last June — garnered hundreds of attendees.
The march, which began in De La Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara, featured speakers, dancing, tabling from women’s rights and activist groups and concluded with a march down State Street.
“We are the first generation of women in a long time to grow up with fewer rights to our own bodies than our mothers did. That makes me incredibly angry, and I’m sure that makes you angry too,” June Padera, president of UC Santa Barbara’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action chapter, said to the group.
“You’re all here, which means you’re willing to do something about it. And that’s incredibly exciting,” she continued.
The event was themed “Bigger than Roe,” and many of the speakers and participants — including Paula Lopez Ochoa, president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee — emphasized the lack of abortion protections that women across the country are encountering.
“On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court did something that a lot of women never thought would happen. It abandoned nearly 50 years of precedent in overturning Roe v. Wade,” Lopez Ochoa said.
Despite the loss of what was previously enshrined by the Supreme Court as a women’s right, she encouraged the march’s participants to continue to protest and make their voices heard.
“Instead of mourning in a defeatist way, we are activating, we are marching … We are taking this fight to every state house and every legislator in our country,” Lopez Ochoa said. “Today we put our politicians on notice. If you come for our families, if you come for our freedoms, if you come for our rights, you come for our future and we are coming for your seat.”
Kristin Flickinger, executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation, spoke to the crowd about how the retraction of women’s rights is fundamentally tied to a reduction of rights for other marginalized groups.
“We have to understand that every time someone tries to access a Planned Parenthood and is harassed, every time a trans person is murdered or a young non-binary person is misgendered, every time an athlete is required to strip down and prove their gender through an examination, every time that gender is defined and controlled from a source outside of ourselves individually, it is an attempt to control us collectively,” she said.
Representatives of the Iranian Academic Community at UCSB and Iranian activists also attended the march, supporting the women’s rights revolution ongoing in the country.
“I’m a representative of numerous voices, of women in Iran who have been oppressed by Islamic regime in Iran for 44 years. They are risking their lives on the streets in any way,” an activist who did not disclose her name said.
“Iranian women and men could not tolerate [the regime] any more for taking women’s rights away … It was not fair to anybody. Men stood up next to their wives, daughters and mothers to say, ‘This is not good for today’s society,’” she continued.
She then led the crowd in the chant “Woman. Life. Freedom,” which has become a rallying cry following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran.
For Claire Kellett and Emily Pineda — Santa Barbara high schoolers and members of the Action for Justice club on their campus who were tabling and attending the event — supporting women’s rights was an important and necessary decision.
“At a very young age, I started seeing a lot of sexism towards women. I grew up in Montana, in a really small town … that was very different from Santa Barbara. Our Planned Parenthood was attacked and caught on fire,” Kellett said. “I don’t think that Santa Barbara is at risk of anything [that] detrimental happening. But I think that we should support women as a whole and just show … role models, which inspire[s] other women to stand up for their rights.
Pineda echoed this sentiment, and said it was important for women and girls of all ages — particularly the younger generation — to stand up for their rights.
“They’re the next generation. If they’re not going to do it, then who is?” she asked. “It’s important that you start being a role model at a young age, and [encourage] all people to stand up for human rights and women’s rights.”
Kellett encouraged people who see the importance of women’s rights to attend similar marches in the future.
“If you’re reading this article, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m so happy this is happening in the world, and this is really important,’ I want to encourage everybody to bring your friends because I feel like the volume of people matters,” Pineda said.
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Jan. 26, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.