At a restaurant two blocks from the Capitol, California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis told a group of people lobbying for abortion rights that with the upbringing she had, in a Greek immigrant community in the 1970s, she very nearly didn’t have the life and career she has had.

“My older sister is just two and a half years older than me, was married with her first baby when she was 19,” she said.

Kounalakis, whose announcement that she was married with her first baby at 35 drew a round of applause, said women, when she was growing up, were expected to stay home with children, or possibly be a teacher or a nurse.

“I still look back and think, you know, how did I manage on this journey?” Kounalakis told the group. She said, central to her ability to follow her ambition and career was the knowledge that she could have an abortion if she needed one. Kounalakis announced last week that she’s running to replace Governor Gavin Newsom, who’s term-limited, in 2026.

“The fact that this is being taken away, the fact that Roe [v. Wade] was stripped away in our country has been a shock to the system,” she said. “it was a shock to women across the political spectrum and across the country. And it was really a shock to young women.”

In California, Kounalakis said, passing legislation to protect abortion is easy and policymakers are only limited by their technical ability and imaginations. The main mission of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro Choice California members she was speaking to was to convince legislators to pass a 17-bill package this season. The bills were assembled by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and the California Future of Abortion Council, and are intended to shore up legal protections for providers, strengthen patient privacy and improve access to abortion and gender-affirming care.

Shannon Hovis, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, said after last year’s package of 15 bills, plus a voter-approved state constitutional amendment to protect abortion, “many folks in the Capitol community may have said, ‘well, didn’t you get it all done?’” she said. “But the reality is this year’s bill package is even bigger. And that’s because we are reacting in real time to what we are seeing across this country….”

Full story at CapRadio.