Palm Desert abortion-rights demonstration disrupted by anti-abortion protesters

·3 min read
Anti-abortion activist John Barnwell of Palm Desert is confronted by abortion-rights protester Marilyn Markovich at the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights protest in Palm Desert, Calif., on July 1, 2022.
Anti-abortion activist John Barnwell of Palm Desert is confronted by abortion-rights protester Marilyn Markovich at the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights protest in Palm Desert, Calif., on July 1, 2022.

A small protest by abortion-rights activists was disrupted by two men voicing anti-abortion views on Friday outside of Palm Desert City Hall, both reactions to the Supreme Court's June ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

About 20 women and men attended the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights protest when John Barnwell of Palm Desert and another unidentified man showed up on bicycles and began heckling the protesters with anti-abortion arguments as they rode circles around them.

The unidentified man became agitated when the activists and media began taking photos and video of him, and after one protestor said he would send his photo to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Barnwell told the group of activists he's a former employee of Desert Regional Medical Center, repeated the same questions about late-term abortions and interrupted the speakers several times asking if he could make a statement. He also referred to one activist as "Oprah" and invited protesters to a game of hopscotch.

"I don't hate anybody but we just need (abortion) to stop," Barnwell said. "(Women) can take their babies to the hospitals and leave. Let the baby have a life like God intended for all of us. I'm not pushing religion. I love the Lord, of course, but I'm not pushing that. I'm not being violent. I wanted to hand out fliers but there's not enough people here."

Twenty-two-year-old Oriana Perez of Mecca, who organized the attendees who support abortion rights, said she is "sad" because in her view, the country is regressing backward on the issue instead of progressing forward.

Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights organizer Oriana Perez (left) speaks to 20 protesters in front of Palm Desert City Hall in Palm Desert, Calif., on July 1, 2022.
Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights organizer Oriana Perez (left) speaks to 20 protesters in front of Palm Desert City Hall in Palm Desert, Calif., on July 1, 2022.

"You would expect that in 2022 more people would be understanding that a woman has rights to her own anatomy, it's her choice and her business alone," Perez said. "Nobody should intervene in that and it's our decision what we choose to do. It's been tough"

Perez mentioned a sign carried by 72-year-old Marilyn Markovich of Rancho Mirage that read, "My arms are tired from holding this sign in the 1960s, mind your own uterus."

"They've already fought for this. Why are we doing it again? We shouldn't be going back," Perez said.

Markovich said the Supreme Court's decision is "maddening," that she protested for abortion rights during the '60s while attending Ohio State University, and drove a friend in 1970 to New York for an abortion.

"Rich people can always get abortions, it's people that don't have and money like young girls subjected to rape and incest in their families who are affected," Markovich said.

California voters will decide in November whether to guarantee the right to an abortion in the state constitution, a question sure to boost turnout on both sides of the debate during a pivotal midterm election year as Democrats try to keep control of Congress after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

"I feel like it's a continuous effort until then, and even after to make sure that we as women have these rights, because they're basic human rights," Perez said.

Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment for the Desert Sun. He can be reached at brian.blueskye@desertsun.com or on Twitter at @bblueskye.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Desert abortion-rights demonstration disrupted by anti-abortion protesters