Fight the right and stand up for choice

SUPPORTERS OF women's right to choose are organizing in several U.S. cities to defend women's clinics that are the target of an anti-abortion campaign called 40 Days for Life.

The 40 Days campaign is a right-wing Christian organization that opposes not only abortion, but all extramarital and non-procreative sex. The national campaign's Web site states, "Christ told us that some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting" and advocates prayer, fasting and 24-hour vigils at women's clinics.

The right-wingers have targeted dozens of abortion clinics across the country for 40 consecutive days in an attempt to stop working-class women from receiving the health care and abortion services they need. But women's rights advocates have another plan in store for them.

-- In Los Angeles, pro-choice protesters defended a major family planning clinic in the heart of the city--by following the bigots' plans online, organizing at the clinic early in the morning, and providing escort services and safe passage to the women visiting the health center throughout the day.

What you can do

To get involved in protesting the anti-abortion 40 Day for Life in Los Angeles, contact the 40 Days for Choice and the International Socialist Organization.

Join LA pro-choice activists on October 3 and October 10, beginning at 7 a.m., at Family Planning Associates, 601 S. Westmoreland Ave.

In New York City, find out more from the New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense and Crisis Pregnancy Center Watch.

For more information about upcoming actions in New York City, e-mail nycacd@gmail.com.

On September 23, the first day of the action, counterprotesters outnumbered anti-abortion protesters about 2-to-1, forcing them to pack up early and leave. According to clinic employees, the same people target the center on a daily basis, with up to 70 anti-choice protesters harassing patients and employees regularly on Saturdays.

Clinic security is often forced to phone police because the anti-abortion protesters try to physically block women from entering the clinic and assault patients. "Finally you've come!" said one woman. "These people are here every day that I come to work, and it's so frustrating to see them here with no one to stand up to them. I hope you will be here more often."

The following Saturday, anti-choice bigots turned out in greater numbers, reaching 30 at their peak, and were more aggressive in their actions. Neo-Nazis and members of the anti-immigrant Minutemen were among the anti-choice protesters. They brought posters of supposedly bloody fetuses and a crucifix on a 7-foot pole.

Anti-choice protesters also handed out pamphlets filled with medically unsound advice, such as "Birth control is an abortion" or "Having an abortion causes breast cancer." They also passed out flyers that aim to redirect women toward their bogus clinics, which pretends to offer "pregnancy counseling," but aims to frighten vulnerable women into believing that abortion is immoral.

Often, before women could even get out of their cars, the right-wingers would try to surround the vehicle with these kinds of pamphlets, disinformation and proselytizing.

For a short time, anti-choicers outnumbered the pro-choice side. However, through an extra push of grassroots efforts via the Internet and phone calls, organizers were able to eventually outnumber the bigots. Forming a line with their bodies and posters, pro-choice activists drowned out the bigots with chants like "Whose choice? Women's choice!" and "'Pro-life'? Your name's a lie! You don't care if women die!"

Organizers from the grassroots group 40 Days for Choice provided clinic escort services to usher women safely to the clinic and their cars. After hours of protest, the pro-choice side was successful and again sent the anti-abortion side packing.

Activists vowed to continue to protect the clinic. One woman who was involved in clinic defenses 20 years ago, somberly said, "I can't believe we are back here again, fighting for the basic right to an abortion."

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-- In New York City, about 75 pro-choice activists gathered on September 26 to defend the Dr. Emily Women's Health Clinic, a full-service women's health facility and abortion clinic in the South Bronx.

The counterprotest was called by the New York Coalition for Abortion Clinic Defense (NYCACD), which was founded this summer in response to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the last providers of late-term abortions in the U.S.

On September 26, the first Saturday of the 40 Days for Life campaign, pro-choice activists outnumbered right-wing protesters 5-to-1, successfully preventing protesters from persuading any clients away from the clinic. Activists were confident and unabashedly pro-choice in message. One college student who attended the event told others, "Abortion isn't a tragic choice. It can be a liberating choice!"

In a display of the extreme bigotry by the right-wing protesters, one particularly aggressive monk called out to an activist wearing a headscarf, asking if she was Muslim. She responded that she was, and he asked her if Allah approved of her participating in a pro-choice action. She told him that was between her and God. He yelled back at her, "Go back to your Arab country!"

It's clear that the 40 Days for Life campaign cares nothing for the women of color in the South Bronx.