With the Supreme Court poised to overturn or substantially curtail Roe v. Wade, a small group gathered outside the downtown Palo Alto Whole Foods store on Wednesday afternoon to protest in favor of the legal right to have an abortion.
A little over a dozen people participated in the rally, held at 3 p.m. outside the 774 Emerson St. store. The event was spearheaded by the local chapter of the activist group Raging Grannies, and was part of a nationwide series of Strike for Choice protests.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The case brings the potential that the court's conservative majority could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which found that there is a Constitutional right for women to have an abortion.
Raging Grannies organizer Ruth Robertson said she and other protesters turned out Wednesday because they couldn't "stand by idly" while the court considers rolling back abortion rights. Many members of the Raging Grannies remember a time before Roe, when abortion was illegal in many states.
"We know what our mothers and fathers feared," Robertson said. "Many of us know women who had illegal abortions. We don't want to go back there."
The protest targeted Whole Foods because the company is headquartered in Texas, which has banned abortions after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Protesters also objected to what they characterized as Whole Foods' silence on the issue and past statements by its CEO that are critical of the Affordable Care Act. The company's press team did not respond to a request for comment before this news organization's press deadline.
Robertson said she hopes the protests prompt a response from Whole Foods, as well as raise awareness among its customers, who Robertson said are mostly women.
Although the court is not expected to issue a ruling in the Mississippi case until June, Vara Ramakrishnan, one of the national organizers of the Strike for Choice protests, said public pressure on the Supreme Court justices is important ahead of their ruling.
"The time for us to act is now, not after the law changes," said Ramakrishnan, who attended Wednesday's rally in Palo Alto. "It's really critical."
The protesters largely gathered across the street from the Whole Foods store, carrying signs with slogans such as "Keep Abortion Legal" and "Whole Foods: Support the Women Who Support You." They sang songs and chanted, occasionally walking into the intersection.
A Palo Alto police officer briefly arrived at the protest and went into the store. Some protesters stood in front of the police car with their signs. The officer left shortly afterward.
Karen Damian said she attended Wednesday's protest because it's important to "fight the good fight" and try to protect abortion rights.
"Women need to be in control of their own bodies," Damian said. "They don't need rules and men telling them how to behave, or what they should do or not do. I just think it's a travesty."