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How Californians View Abortion


The hundreds of women’s marches held across the country this weekend had a clear rallying cry: Don’t let America go the way of Texas.

A Long Beach protester held a sign which read: “Coronavirus has more reproductive rights in Texas than women!”

A near-complete abortion ban enacted in Texas last month appears to have boosted abortion supporters across the country, even though participation in the marches remained below that of previous years.

On Saturday, protesters flooded streets in San Diego, Eureka, San Jose, Riverside, Sacramento and several other California cities.

But the situation in our state is very different from that in Texas and much of the rest of the nation.

California is home to more than a quarter of the country’s abortion facilities, with many treating patients from Texas since the new law went into effect. California doctors, meanwhile, have flown out of the state to provide abortions to Texas women.

The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that 77 percent of adults here want Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, remain in effect. That is almost 20 percentage points higher than the share in recent national surveys.

That widespread support for abortion has placed California in a somewhat unique position within the current abortion landscape. If Roe v. Wade were quashed, California law would keep abortions legal here, which most states wouldn’t.

Still, there’s one area where California abortion trends match the nation: unchanging public attitudes over time.

In the Public Policy Institute poll released this July, 21 percent of California adults wanted Roe v. Wade undone, which is almost unchanged from the 22 percent who shared that belief in 2006.

The same pattern has been seen nationwide, with attitudes toward abortion fluctuating slightly from year to year but remaining largely stable over decades, said Gregory A. Smith of the Pew Research Center.

Fifteen years ago, there was about equal opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion in the United States, Smith said. But opposition to same-sex marriage has steadily declined, while abortion has not.

“It’s a very different pattern for those two kinds of core cultural issues,” Smith told me.

That’s because younger Americans are much more comfortable with same-sex marriage than older generations, while the generation gap in abortion beliefs is much smaller.

This suggests that, even in California, the abortion debate is not going to go away anytime soon.

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When a Los Angeles author tweeted about a Royal Dansk cookie jar being repurposed as a sewing kit, he thought a few fellow Latinos might have something to say.

But his joke resonated in all cultures. People began to share memories of spices stored in Taster’s Choice instant coffee jars, lentils in glass jam jars, and Dannon yogurt tubs filled with dal.

My Times colleague Priya Krishna writes, “The reincarnations have become part of the cultural discourse as people realize that what they thought was a quirk of their particular community or generation is much more widespread.”

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