women oppose choice
foes are putting a moderate face on their first San Francisco march in memory
Tali Woodward and Rachel Brahinsky
Opponents of abortion are making
a local stand Jan. 22, the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and they plan
to bring a moderate-sounding message to the streets of this pro-choice stronghold.
The Walk for Life's purpose, according to its Web site, is "to establish
a new West Coast tradition of celebrating life" and "inform society
of the damage done to women by abortion."
Organizer Dolores Meehan told
the Bay Guardian she wants to show that "women deserve better than
abortion," which is a new approach from a movement that a decade ago was
asserting that women who seek abortions are murderers. Meehan said the event is
unconnected to any legislative effort and even refused to say whether she personally
would like to see abortion outlawed.
"Let me ask you this: do you think
we are freer as women today because of being turned against the children who are
in our wombs?" she said.
Therese Wilson, vice president of Planned Parenthood
Golden Gate, cautioned that the language of female empowerment being used by the
Walk for Life is disingenuous.
"Antichoice organizations can say what
they want, but their real agenda is to restrict health care for women," including
access to contraception, she told us. "Being pro-choice really does encompass
all women and their ability to decide what's best for themselves." Wilson
and other activists are hoping to out-show the antiabortion crowd with a march
in support of Roe that's bigger than usual.
The Walk for Life has been
endorsed by a roster of faith-heavy organizations like the Coalition on Urban
Renewal and Education and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. And most of them have
an agenda that goes beyond abortion. Take the Walnut Creek-based California Right
to Life, which is fighting a state bill that would require pharmacists to dispense
contraception. Another sponsor, the Ignatius Press, publishes books on Christianity
as well as tomes on the dangers of birth control and the medically discredited
claim that abortion causes breast cancer.
It's also possible the more radical
elements of the antiabortion movement aren't far off the stage. Planned Parenthood
spokesperson Erin Kiernon told us her group got its first inkling of the event
months ago when someone forwarded a call to action posted on the Web site of Operation
Save America (formerly Operation Rescue), famous for extreme tactics like clinic
blockades and harassment of abortion providers. Reproductive rights activists
told us they certainly expect increased protesting at women's clinics the day
of the walk.
It may seem that San Francisco, where the Board of Supervisors
designated Jan. 22 "Stand Up for Choice Day," and even the state of
California, with its pro-choice Republican governor, would be impervious to any
antichoice message. But abortion rights activists, who are gearing up for four
years of fighting Republicans in Washington, D.C., see the Walk for Life as yet
another sign that the antiabortion movement is emboldened.
The two protests
come just weeks after some high-profile hints that the Democratic Party was moving
away from its decades-old commitment to abortion rights. The Democrats' new leader
in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, opposes abortion. And Reid is backing Rep. Tim
Roemer, another pro-lifer, to head the Democratic National Committee, which oversees
the party's policy platform as well as fundraising efforts.
Even Rep. Nancy
Pelosi has reportedly encouraged Roemer to throw his hat in the ring. Meanwhile,
high-profile Dems like former presidential candidate Howard Dean have been telling
media outlets the party should be more welcoming to people who oppose abortion.
The Jan. 22 march to Defend Women's Health and Rights starts with a 10 a.m.
rally at Powell and Market Streets, S.F., then an 11 a.m. march to the Embarcadero,
where the Walk for Life protesters will be gathering at 11 a.m. to walk to the
Marina Green at noon. For more information go to www.indybay.org/womyn and www.walkforlifewc.com.
Woodward and Rachel Brahinsky