Challenging the anti-abortionists in Texas
DENTON, Texas--For two days, the pro-choice community here verbally combated the entrenched racism and misogyny of the right wing-funded anti-choice group known ironically as Justice For All (JFA).
That name should have a caveat added--Justice For All...Except Women.
The diverse crowd of supporters of abortion rights participated in eight-hour days of protest involving a multitude of demonstration tactics, as well as providing political alternatives.
The demonstration was led by a coalition of progressive organizations on the University of North Texas campus, including the International Socialist Organization, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at UNT. This coalition showed discipline as well as commitment, despite only coming together a mere 24 hours beforehand, beginning with some phone calls and a posting on Facebook.
The anti-choice demonstrations had 18-foot-tall signs, paid for with corporate money, not to mention their many lies, but the coalition stood toe-to-toe, literally, with the right and had an even larger and more boisterous presence.
The confrontations on day one focused heavily on chanting, such as, "When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" On day two, activists challenged the anti-choice protesters with their own arguments, and a clear polarization of the crowd began to take place. More people were adopting the stance of free abortion on demand, rather than their previously held pro-choice positions.
On the other side, the anti-choice demonstrators held their fabricated images of supposedly aborted fetuses. Those images are meant to be traumatizing and to accept violent behavior--they are the same kinds of images used to justify violent acts committed against women obtaining services at clinics, abortion providers like Dr. George Tiller who was killed in his own church, and clinics themselves.
During several long and heated confrontations, members of the JFA tried to equivocate abortion with Cambodian genocide, the Holocaust and lynching in the South--racist comparisons that further dehumanize groups of people who have suffered very real and horrific persecutions and societal disasters.
This racism is coupled with blaming women for the various reasons they might consider abortion. On multiple occasions, I and other female protesters were called "sluts" and "whores" by JFA supporters and sympathizers, whose perspective could be reduced to this argument: the easiest way to not need an abortion is for women to simply not have sex.
But what was important about our counter-protest was the visibility we were able to have, and the interest and support we were able to garner, including for our presence as socialists, in the wake of an emboldened right wing in this country.