'They're setting back time': Supporters of abortion rights gather in downtown Stockton

·3 min read
Brooke Santini chants as she displays a sign at a protest in front of Stockton City Hall on Saturday. The protest was organized to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Brooke Santini chants as she displays a sign at a protest in front of Stockton City Hall on Saturday. The protest was organized to denounce the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The stories of abortion rights supporters are deeply personal.

Christina Chavez Nelson, who is a Stockton resident and a middle school teacher, shared one at a rally of about 70 people outside of Stockton City Hall on Saturday night. Nelson was one of many Stocktonians who gathered to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case establishing abortion as a constitutional right.

Nelson said that in the early 1990s she had a friend who was seeking an abortion, but could not tell her family because she feared being stigmatized.

"She knew she could go to a clinic and yes, she had to pay out of pocket for it, but it was legal, it was safe, it was healthy, and she knew she would be cared for," Nelson said.

Nelson said that for a long period of her life, she thought she wouldn't be able to have children. She suffered two early miscarriages and was told by doctors that she couldn't conceive, but she became pregnant when she was in her 40s.

"All of the options were in front of me, including abortion," Nelson said. "As an older woman giving birth, there are all kinds of complications, but it was between me and my doctors. I decided I wanted to go ahead and go forth with the pregnancy, but I made that decision completely by myself. I was solely in charge of my body and the baby that would continue to grow."

Nelson said it is important for all women to be able to make their own health care decisions.

"The person I loved back in the 90s got to make her own decision based on what was best for her and she was safe, and it was legal," Nelson said. "It shouldn't be anyone else's decision. A person should have bodily autonomy, regardless of their gender identity, their sexuality, their religious beliefs, their political beliefs, any of it."

Jerry Gonzales, of Stockton, agreed. He said women should have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. He added that the Supreme Court's decision hits home for him as he is the father of three grown daughters.

"I just believe that we all need to be considered as equals," Gonzales said.

Gonzales said he has been to several protests and that they show the importance of civic engagement.

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"If you are not active in your community, then things like the Supreme Court's decision will happen," Gonzales said. "That's at the local level, as well as the state and federal levels."

La Roya Peace, of Stockton, said she also believes in the power of civic engagement. She said she has eight grandchildren who she often educates on social justice and political issues. Some of them were with her at the protest.

"My granddaughters need to be able to have a choice," Peace said. "I feel like they're setting back time, especially for those that are less fortunate, those that don't have proper health care."

The protest was organized by PSL Central Valley, a local advocacy group that aims to bring awareness to various social issues such reproductive rights, homelessness and police brutality.

"The turnout today was amazing," Jessica Salas, an organizer with PSL, said. "I was chanting on the bullhorn for a while and my throat was kind of starting to hurt. I was like, 'Oh no, what will happen if I stop?' But the people picked it up themselves and that was so inspiring. I loved being out here and seeing the people sharing their voices, and standing up for something they believe in."

Record reporter Hannah Workman covers news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. She can be reached at hworkman@recordnet.com or on Twitter @byhannahworkman. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.

This article originally appeared on The Record: Stocktonians protest Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade