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Protesters gather at abortion rights rallies in California and across U.S.

Joining demonstrators across the country, women’s rights activists gathered in downtown Los Angeles and elsewhere around the state Saturday as the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

The L.A. rally organized by the Women’s March Foundation started at 10 a.m. and was set to feature appearances from Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Alex Padilla, and Reps. Karen Bass and Maxine Waters.

Donna Troy Wangler was among the few women gathered at the L.A. City Hall rally who wasn’t toting a sign proclaiming her views. But the Inland Empire high school teacher had poignant story to share about her daughter Lauren, who was born with Down’s syndrome and was six years old when she died.

“Some people seem to think it’s a snap for moms like [me] to have an abortion,” Wangler said. “I decided to keep my child — and that was a traumatic load to carry. But gosh, the love we shared changed my life forever.”

Holding up her cell phone, she gushed, “Here’s a photo of Lauren — Look how proud of herself she is!”

“So, I’m here today,” added Wangler, 53, “ because I want the world to know that abortion is a woman’s choice. No one else’s.”

The rally is one of hundreds taking place across the country, including in Long Beach, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Palos Verdes and Santa Ana, as well as in San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Austin, Texas.

Shante Young, 28, a construction company project engineer who lives in Costa Mesa, and her boyfriend Dylan Sanchez, 30, a retail salesman who lives in Whittier, sought shade under a tree in Grand Park as they listened to the voices of abortion rights supporters booming through loudspeakers from the stage in front of City Hall. A few yards away, anti-abortion demonstrators banged drums and used a megaphone to drown out the activists’ voices.

“If they start taking away women’s rights, they’re going to take away the right to vote,” Young said. “What’s next? It’s very scary.”

News helicopters hovered overhead, and hundreds of protesters around them applauded and cheered the speakers on stage. “The biggest thing is to make our presence known,” Sanchez said. He, too, fretted that the loss of abortion rights would foreshadow the loss of other rights. “I’m just concerned that one thing is going to change another thing, like a domino effect,” he said.

Betty Linville, 68, who lives in Koreatown, attended the rally with an Italian friend, Anna Gladstone, 62, who lives in the Hollywood Hills.

“I have memories of women and men fighting for abortion rights 50 years ago,” Linville said. She said she worried the “incredible freedom” of legal abortion was in jeopardy, especially for women who lack the means to travel from a state where it is banned to one where it is allowed.

“What is next?” Linville said. “What else is going to be taken away?”

“This comes down to poor women who won’t have access to travel for abortion,” Gladstone said.

The demonstrations come after Politico reported May 2 that a draft opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. indicated a majority of the court would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, reversing its recognition of women’s constitutional right to access safe and legal abortions.

The Supreme Court has confirmed the authenticity of the draft but said that the decision is not yet final. At least 26 states are expected to ban abortion if the precedent falls.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, could issue a final opinion in late June or early July.

Most Americans support abortion rights — up to a point. A major survey of 10,441 Americans by the Pew Research Center, conducted in March and released earlier this month, found 61% of Americans said abortion should be legal all (19%) or most (42%) of the time.

On the other side, just 8% said abortion should be illegal in all cases, while another 29% said it should be illegal in most cases or with only a few exceptions. Those results are consistent with a host of other surveys of opinion regarding abortion.

Times staff writer David Lauter contributed to this report.

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