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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Womyn
7th Annual “West Coast Walk For Life" - Anti-Abortion rally
Thousands and thousands if not tens of thousands of church-based anti-abortion activists rallied at the Embarcadero in San Francisco on Saturday, January 22nd. They used the 38th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade to spread their message that abortion is murder and needs to be outlawed and criminalized throughout the United States. Planned Parenthood needs to be shut down nationally by whatever means it takes. (11:29)
Listen to the first speaker at their rally. Listen closely with a critical ear. She describes herself as a former Planned Parenthood Director in Texas who in 2008 changed her stance and become an anti-abortion crusader. The closer listen will hear her describing the activities of anti-abortion protestors who confront and -when able - block women in front of an abortion clinic to scream in their faces and characterize them as murders right as they are going in to get an abortion as “sidewalk counseling”. She then goes on to describe Planned Parenthood workers providing abortion and related services as “coercing” women to get abortions. All in the name of someone’s version of some “God” and for “life”.
The highlight in the short time I was in that crowd? A little buzz went through the crowd, and in front of me several police officers peacefully led a handful of pro-choice activists - I think Revolutionary Communist Party activists - out of the crowd, the activists pumping their fists in the air in triumph; likely led out for the “violation” of bringing their pro-choice message into the crowd. The reason this is newsworthy on this site is because of the anti-abortion movement's growing effectiveness.
The Bay Area Coalition For Our Reproductive Rights (BACORR) held an unpermitted, pro-choice celebration and rally at Harry Bridges Plaza on the Embarcadero in San Francisco on Saturday, January 22, on the 38th anniversary of Roe vs Wade. The celebration was for the gains that still remain from the passage of Roe vs. Wade 38 years ago. The rally was to meet, confront, and counter - for the 7th straight year - the religious right who brazenly bus in, rally, and march through historically pro-choice San Francisco with their vile message of outlawing abortion as murder. (10:07)
Hear the tail end of the rally, before the march, which was held beside the Walk For Life‘s oversized rally. A veteran pro-choice activist provides details on the history and importance of the reproductive rights struggle; BACORR and Radical Women organizer Marit describes BACORR’s full reproductive rights agenda and the logistics of the march; the Raging Grannies provide a both hard-hitting and satirical message, including a kind of Raging Grannies theme song for abortion rights; I intercepted Marit astutely answering straightforward but somewhat stacked questions - meant to get her to criticize this movement for the smaller numbers - from a Channel 5 corporate media reporter.
BACORR was able to bring out hundreds of pro-choice activists to stand up to the thousands and thousands of well-funded anti-choice protesters. Many mainstream abortion providers, pro-choice politicians, and activist groups peripheral to this issue choose not to participate in this type of street action. Many organizations participated, with speakers and colorful signs. Some I was able to identify are Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party, Raging Grannies, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, The Revolutionary Communist Party, World Can’t Wait, Gay Shame, The International Bolshevik Tendency, East Bay Atheists, Godless Geeks, along with many individuals and other groups.
After the anti-abortion “Walk For Life” rally, anti-choice activists marched through the streets north up the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Warf, then all the way to the Marina for an anti-choice “youth rally”. BACORR activists marched on the sidewalk right beside them for part of the way. The thousands of anti-choice activists were led by a police escort, as part of their permitted action. Hear an uncut audio collage of the spirited and confrontational BACORR sidewalk march and rally. (54 minutes)
This audio was taken on my recorder while marching. It shows the tone, content, and emotion in the pro-choice movement, including outrage against the right-wing anti-choice movement. Short sound bites and narration are included to spice up the audio. Activists shouted coordinated chants with confrontational messages at the Christians, much of it articulating the hypocrisies and contradictions of what they articulate and represent. “Walk for Life your name’s a lie, you don’t care if women die” and “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” were two of the many chants repeated tirelessly for probably close to two hours. "Walk" marchers were repeatedly confronted on their anti-gay stances and Catholic church abuses.
As in past years’ events, the march was non-violent and I don’t think any arrests or problematic police confrontations occurred. Most anti-choicers were able to endure the criticism, smiling or at least non-verbal in the face of well-articulated criticism. However, as usual, some of their signs were outrageous and maybe morbid. In a few instances I saw, anti-abortion activists had to be held back by their own - per their internal messages not to engage or confront the counter protesters - from physically attacking pro-choice activists criticizing them, revealing their truer natures. From what I heard and saw, the messages that prompted these bursts of outrage were mostly pro-gay (the “Walk For Life” movement is openly anti-gay) and pro-women’s sexual freedom.
The counter protest is more than symbolic, despite the mainstream media’s depictions as of “fringe groups” or “irrelevant”. The anti-abortionists are not here just to march, but to also recruit and organize locally. The pressure they get and their knowledge that confronting it cannot in any way help them limit’s the scope of their public activities while here. A smaller action reportedly went on in front of a downtown Oakland abortion clinic the day before, but it had been unannounced on their website in order to evade scrutiny and I don’t have any information on what occurred.