Mills students took to the streets, joining Bay Area abortion rights activists in the March for Choice, a rally against the first anti-abortion Walk for Life in San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 22, the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Many of the abortion rights activists were upset that the Walk for Life was held in the Bay Area and on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling which declared abortion rights protected under the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy.
“That they can be so arrogant as to come to San Francisco, ‘the most progressive city in the country’ on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said Loretta Linseed, who works with Food Not Bombs and did security for the pro-choice event. “It’s a slap in the face and it’s very reflective of where this country is going, and it’s scary.”
The Walk for Life West Coast is trying to bring awareness to the anti-abortion activists presence in this region and brought in most of its walkers from the Central Valley, according to Jack Dawson, a Walk for Life coordinator. Many Bay Area abortion rights activists came to the event to reinforce the area’s liberal reputation. Additionally, the San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland City Councils unanimously passed a resolution to make Jan. 22 “Stand Up for Choice Day.”
The March for Choice lined the Walk for Life on its route along the Embarcadero and through the tourist area of Fisherman’s Wharf. The walk was stopped twice by a blockade of abortion rights activists, including some Mills women, and was diverted by police to another route.
Two people were arrested for assaulting a police officer, but the day remained peaceful aside from a large police presence.
“There’s always a lot of cops at marches but they seemed less threatening [today],” said sophomore Britt Card, “At the blockade they were telling us ‘don’t worry, no one’s getting arrested.’ I kept wondering who they were rooting for.”
San Francisco city officials, including Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris attended the March for Choice, which co-organizer Nancy Reiko Kato of Radical Women said “is so indicative of who we are.”
“It’s a safe issue for them [politically], and that says a lot,” Reiko Kato said.
The San Francisco Chronicle estimated that 6,000 people attended the Walk for Life, while about 3,000 attended the March for Choice.
Rachel Gordezky, publicity chair for Mills’ Choice USA said, “living here I only get the pro-choice side of the argument, but I guess there are a lot more people against abortion than I thought.”
Many feel that the turnout isn’t representative of what the community stands for.
“If they had organized better and bussed people in from all over, the pro-choice side would have been bigger, but everyone’s from here. We found our own way to the march,” Card said.
Anti-abortion marchers remained quiet except for the occasional hymn, while choice marchers cheered and called out chants such as, “2-4-6-8, we’re the ones who ovulate!”
Instead of carrying posters of fetuses as in past anti-abortion marches, Walk for Lifers carried signs reading “women deserve better than abortion,” the new slogan of Feminists for Life. Their opponents responded by chanting, “Women deserve choice.”
Abortion rights activists adorned themselves and their posters with coat hangers, resurrecting the history of illegal back alley abortions, which they say killed thousands of women annually. Anti-abortion activists have said this is a false history, created to support the abortion rights activist’s agenda.
In 1965, all 50 states banned abortion unless the woman’s life was in danger, the fetus was deformed, or was conceived through rape or incest. Today, after the Roe v. Wade ruling, over a million women receive abortions each year, and anti-abortion activists continue to challenge that right.
But they too will be challenged. This semester, Gordezky says Choice USA will begin a letter-writing campaign, “to show [the Bush Administration] that we will not accept a pro-life government.”