Standing against the fanatics

THE ANNUAL "Right to Life" march--in which tens of thousands of abortion opponents gather to protest the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in 1973--came to Washington, D.C., on January 25.

Held annually, the march is the culmination of a weeklong series of anti-abortion conferences and rallies, which draw anti-abortion groups, including Catholic schools and parishes, and numerous religious youth from across the country.

This year, the march was especially significant because it comes 40 years after the Roe ruling. In the course of these 40 years, affordable access to abortion has been steadily rolled back. The state of Mississippi recently closed down its last clinic providing abortion procedures, and a recent study found that women living in 97 percent of rural counties in the U.S. have no access to the procedure within their counties.

There was a sense of jubilation among the marchers, some of whom had the nerve to compare their struggle against a woman's right to control her own body with the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.

But their march did not go unchallenged. When anti-choice marchers began arriving at the Supreme Court at 1 p.m., they found a small but angry crowd of pro-choice women and men standing there to challenge them.

This group of about 50 included representatives of the National Organization for Women and Feminist Majority Foundation, as well as local students and area natives involved in clinic defense, members of the International Socialist Organization and representatives from stoppatriarchy.org of the World Can't Wait Coalition.

Neither NARAL nor Planned Parenthood, which both have headquarters in Washington, attended the counterprotest. This was another unfortunate sign that these organizations, which are supposed to promote women's health, have backtracked in the face of the conservative assault.

Before the bigots arrived, abortion rights activists held a speak-out in which several women shared their experiences of having abortions.

Laura Kacere of the Feminist Majority Foundation spoke of her experience when she got pregnant as a high-school student in Iowa. "I'm extremely grateful for my abortion," she said. "Without that procedure, I would be living in Iowa today with my parents. I wouldn't have been able to go to college. I wouldn't be living in D.C., and wouldn't have all my friends or the life I've been able to have because of it."

Other speakers noted the experiences of friends, mothers and other relatives whose abortions had made better lives for them possible.

When the anti-choice crowds began arriving, we lined up across the Supreme Court steps and began spirited chanting. We shouted: "Pro-life, that's a lie, you don't care if women die!" and "Abortion on demand and without apology, without this basic right, women can't be free!"

Though many in the crowd attempted to displace us by either screaming at us or shoving us to the side, we avoided confrontation and held our ground.