Hundreds of Walk For Life marchers flooded the streets of San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 23 to protest abortion, prompting Mills students and local activist organizations to participate in a counter protest for reproductive justice.
The counter-protest to the march for life included not only Mills students, but also students from around the Bay Area like UC Berkeley and various Oakland and San Francisco high schools. Other concerned people from the surrounding communities also participated in the protest. They came to march on the sidelines to chant over the pro-life march with words such as “Women die when abortion is illegal,” “Abortion on demand and without apology” and “Fetuses aren’t babies.” They held up pictures of women who died from abortions due to its illegality, lack of access to clinics, or lack of funds.
The Walk for Life is an annual event in San Francisco that first occurred in 2005. It takes place on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Many of the people in the “walk for life” come from a variety of religious organizations based in the Bay Area and around the country. Volunteers in this year’s walk wore bright green vests that read “March For Life” and collaborated with the police to block off most of Market Street. Estimates from the Walk For Life website
showed that around 10,000 people participated, almost double from the first march 11 years ago. The pro-life marchers’ signs read “I am the pro-life generation.” The slogan “New tradition, New voice” tried to appeal to a younger generation. Children walked while they held up “defend life” signs.
Altercations between the dueling protests were centered on religious arguments and experiences by both men and women. Bystanders’ reactions were polarized between yelling encouraging and supporting words to the Walk For Life marchers when one man flipped off protesters as he walked down the sidewalk.
The organization known as Stop Patriarchy has been protesting the walk for life movement along with other reproductive justice organizations since they started. After the counter-protest everyone gathered into a nearby plaza and shared their reactions.
During the group-oriented reflection, they acknowledged that this walk came after the recent November Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, which killed three people and injured nine, in the name of anti-abortion and with a gunman that self-identified as a “warrior for babies.”
Mills student Laura Kennedy-Long, expressed what she wishes the pro-lifers would understand about the pro-choice movement and why access to abortion is important.
“I wish they understood that when abortion is illegal or otherwise inaccessible, folks who need it will seek it through other, unregulated, unsafe channels,” Kennedy-Long said. “If they are really pro-life, why are they okay with people dying this way? A mass of cells, technically alive, is just not equal to a living person with friends and a family and a place in the world.”