San Benito County abortion rights advocates hold ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rally

Other than a few honking cars showing support, Hollister had a peaceful protest about the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court.

Over 30 San Benito County abortion-rights advocates gathered along the sidewalk outside the San Benito County Superior Court at 450 Fourth Street in Hollister on May 14. 

The rally, which began at 11 a.m. and lasted approximately two hours, was in protest of the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court. This possible decision prompted Planned Parenthood to initiate the “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies that occurred nationwide on May 14.  

Co-administrator of the Facebook group “95023” and Hollister resident Cathy Booth Vaughan, organized the local event, and invited the group’s members and local community to attend. She said the online community forum has a “very engaged population [of members] who are very passionate about local and national politics.”

And that passion was evident in those who were present at the event. 

Women and men were in attendance, holding signs with messages such as “we need to talk about the elephant in the womb,” and holding clothes hangers—signifying the health risk women were subject to self-abortions prior to the Roe v. Wade.  The U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Roe v. Wade case in 1973  legalized the procedure across the United States.    

Booth Vaughan said her passion for being an advocate of abortion rights stems from a childhood trauma. “My step-dad raped my older sister for years,” she said. “He also trafficked her to other men for sex.” Ultimately, Booth Vaughan said her sister became pregnant by her step-dad at the age of 14, which led her sister to run away from home. 

Clothing hangars were held by protesters as reference to the unsafe and illegal abortions women got prior to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu
Clothing hangers were held by protester Hollister resident Heather Hickerson as reference to possible return to unsafe and illegal abortions if the Roe v. Wade decision were to be overturned. Photo by Jenny Mendolla Arbizu.

She said her sister, now more than 40 years later, has severe mental health issues and is a drug-addict stemming from her traumatic experience.

“That is why I am so passionate about women’s reproductive rights,” Booth Vaughan said.

Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez, San Benito County Board of Supervisors District 1 candidate, attended the rally and said it was unfortunate that “several years from when Roe v. Wade passed, now we’re here at this hurdle again.”

“It’s just a basic human right that we all have access to,” she said. “We need our leaders—whether it is locally in our county or the state— to understand that this is something that [abortion rights advocates] really care about. We should all have the ability to make our own choices and not allow legislators to make those choices for us as a community.”

Aromas resident Wayne Norton was also in attendance, and said he was there because he believes “it is essential to protect reproductive rights for women,” and was also thinking about the rights of his granddaughters.

“I’m scared of what’s next,” Norton said, who is a member of the San Benito County Central Democratic Committee and Anzar Democratic Club. “Right-wing Republicans won’t stop here. LGBTQ rights and freedom to marry who you choose will be their next targets.”

While at the protest, BenitoLink witnessed honks of support for the protest every couple of minutes by passersby. 

The peaceful protest was not countered by any community members.

Zepeda Gonzalez added that one person walking by stopped and told protesters that while they, personally, were anti-abortion, they were “pro-choice for others.” 

She said the person walking by told them, “Regardless of what your beliefs are, everyone should have a choice of what they want to do.”


 We need your help. Support local, nonprofit news! BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is committed to this community and providing essential, accurate information to our fellow residents. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s public service, nonprofit news.

Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She is a graduate of San Benito High School, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny is a former elementary school teacher and has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito and South Valley magazines. She enjoys bringing informative and educational news to San Benito County, as well as spotlighting local community members and businesses. On any given day, she can be found performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or working out at Cold Storage CrossFit.