First published in the Oct. 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Chandler Bikeway became a marching ground last weekend as a procession walked in support of women’s rights, participating in a national event largely responding to abortion restrictions.
Dozens of masked demonstrators attended the Oct. 2 event, holding signs and chatting with other protesters as they marched on the bikeway, which also is a pedestrian path. Many had a variety of concerns, with several mentioning anti-abortion laws recently passed in other states, and said they had come to ensure those worries did not go unheard.
Freedom of choice, health care, climate change and opposition to white supremacy are some of the important issues that affect women, said march organizer and Burbank resident Aimee Powers, adding that those subjects are often related.
“All of these issues really combine to either uplift women and their families or oppress women and their families,” she explained. “It’s really hard to focus on everything, I know, but everything is so interconnected that I think we really have to start paying attention to as much as we possibly can.”
Darrin Brenner, a Burbank resident, stood at a stoplight on the bike path and handed marchers posters she made last year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. A century later, she said, women are still fighting for their rights.
“To be completely honest, a lot of times I can feel really hopeless,” Brenner added. “And when I see these people, I feel like there might be a chance that we can enact some change, just through our sheer volume of people.”
Jane Hur came to the march with her two children, and they held signs as drivers, bikers and even roller skaters waved or honked as they passed by the procession.
“I definitely want to teach my kids that we have the power to use our voice,” Hur said. “These are important things that we have to continue to fight for, and women’s reproductive rights are absolutely under attack right now. And so here we are again, having to fight for women’s rights.”
The national Women’s March began in January 2017 after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, with the bulk of demonstrators assembling in Washington. Believed to be the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history, activists rallied around the issues of women’s rights, access to abortion, immigration reform and a variety of other subjects. Organizers have led similar protests across the nation in January of each year since, though in October 2020 another widespread demonstration arose ahead of the presidential election and after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This month’s protests have largely been in response to recent restrictions on abortion implemented in other states, perhaps most notably Texas. A law there bans abortions when the embryo’s heartbeat is detectable, as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. Medical experts, according to the Associated Press, also note that the sound present at that point isn’t technically a heartbeat since the heart isn’t formed until between the ninth and 12th weeks of pregnancy.
The law, which went into effect in September but whose enforcement was blocked by a federal judge this week, also allows people to sue medical professionals and those who help a woman obtain a prohibited abortion. It does not currently contain exceptions for rape or incest.
Several other states have implemented abortion restrictions this year, and the Supreme Court is set to review a blocked 2018 Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, a policy that conflicts with a standard set in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Abortion-rights proponents fear the court, which has a conservative majority, could overturn Roe v. Wade in its ruling, a prospect for which anti-abortion activists have long pushed.
Though California and Burbank are deeply Democratic regions where abortion receives little legislative opposition, Powers believes local demonstrations are important. Last month, shortly after the Texas law went into effect, she organized another march on the Chandler Bikeway. City Councilmen Nick Schultz and Konstantine Anthony have promoted the events and attended one or both demonstrations.
“I think it’s important for everyone to stand up for these causes, no matter where they live or how blue their city is,” Powers said. “It’s not just for us here in Burbank, it’s for women all over the world, really, who deserve some of the things we take for granted.”