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'He held my hand.' Bontas share abortion story, push for California reproductive rights

Lindsey Holden, Sacramento Bee

California’s efforts to become an abortion care sanctuary is personal for some leaders — one of whom shared her story as part of a statewide push to strengthen access to reproductive healthcare.

Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, D-Oakland, revealed at a news conference Tuesday that she had an abortion at age 21, as she was finishing her degree at Yale University and starting her first job.

The Assembly Democratic Caucus held the briefing to highlight how restricting access to abortion disproportionately impacts people of color, who struggle to find reproductive care and suffer pregnancy-related deaths at higher rates than their white counterparts. 

Bonta shared her experience about a week after Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that showed justices are prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed federal abortion rights.

The court will not issue its official ruling for months. But California leaders have responded by taking steps to make sure Golden State residents, and those in other states that may ban abortion, will have continuing access to reproductive healthcare.

On May 2, Senate and Assembly leaders announced they plan to seek a November ballot measure that would add an abortion rights amendment to the state constitution. 


Helping people of color access abortions is especially important to Bonta, 50, a Black Latina who grew up in the Bronx. She and her mother faced housing insecurity that forced them to move 13 times in 16 years, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story.

Her dream of using her Ivy League education to help her family achieve financial stability was on her mind when she decided to have an abortion, she said. 

“I found out that I was pregnant,” Bonta said. “I had to weigh all of the decisions that came with that reality. And I chose to get an abortion. I chose to own my body. I chose to make a decision that would allow me to recognize the ending (of) the cycle of poverty in my family.”

Bonta later invited her husband, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, to take the microphone, saying he was the only man who would speak because “he held my hand when I made that decision.”

The Bontas began dating after they met at an orientation ahead of their freshman year at Yale, according to the Chronicle story. They later married and now have three children. 

Mia Bonta won a 2021 special election to take over husband’s assembly seat after Newsom tapped him to succeed Xavier Becerra as attorney general. She’s currently in the midst of a campaign to win her first full term in office.

Her husband is also seeking his first elected term as attorney general.

On Tuesday, Rob Bonta said little about his wife’s abortion experience. But he did emphasize that he would “use the full force of the law and the full authority of my office to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

Mia Bonta said it was “unfathomable” to think that pregnant people in states like Mississippi, Georgia and Texas — places that could ban abortions if the Supreme Court does away with Roe v. Wade — would not have the same “power and ability to make choices about who and when, and how to start their own family” that she did at age 21.

“My own daughters will have fewer protections and rights than I did,” Bonta said. “That’s not progress. That’s just terrifying.”