Saturday, January 21, 2006

On the verge of Alito, anti-choice meets pro-choice in San Francisco

Today, thousands of anti-abortion marchers, predominantly white suburbanites, were bussed into San Francisco by Roman Catholic churches. Hundreds of San Francisco and East Bay pro-choice activists greeted them as they walked several miles along the edge of the city. It was a surreal intersection, to say the least. If women's freedom were not at stake, it might have been almost funny. As it was, the scene was sad and frightening. The two groups could not have looked more different. This was contemporary culture clash on display. Here are a few images from the anti-abortion side. (Further reflections follow the pictures; scroll down if interested.)
This was how the anti-abortion folks wanted to appear: led by bright, clean-cut, mostly white young women. And they did have some; the front row was full of them.
After that, this guy was a more common sort.
This set were more or less on message.
While this woman probably didn't carry the message organizers sought.
And this guy certainly was off message

Then there were those who protested what seemed to them (and to me) an invasion from another country.
The anti-choice folks certainly had no monopoly on young women. 8PC-youdecidewhenIdead
Pro-choice women, too, believe this is an issue of life and death.
Without buses, pro-choice women straggled in, but they came.
The pro-choice people weren't all young.
Many had a lot of energy! This really is about our lives.
They weren't all countercultural either. This pair could have fit in with the anti-abortion women -- well, maybe not.
After much milling around, the anti-choice march proceeded down the Embarcadero, separated from protesters by a police gauntlet.
The good women of Code Pink jumped into the street in front of the anti-abortion march briefly, but were chased out of the street by the SFPD, as were several anarchist groups at various points on the march. I saw no arrests or even any confrontations that verged on violence by either side. (They may have happened; this was a big, spread out event.)

It took the anti-abortion march several hours to make its way to Marina Green. Pro-choice protesters left them for a speakout in Aquatic Park.


Watching this clash of cultures, I was reminded of an essay from a recent American Prospect. According to Garance Franke-Ruta, working class folks in the U.S., a group that includes many who believe themselves "middle class," feel victimized by "the onslaught of the new nihilistic, macho, libertarian lawlessness unleashed by an economy that pits every man against his fellows." The right, embodied in the Republican Party, encourages them to fight back against insults from authoritarian corporate management and increasing economic insecurity by asserting "traditional values."

Here's the money quote:

... in today's society, traditional values have become aspirational. Lower-income individuals simply live in a much more disrupted society, with higher divorce rates, more single moms, more abortions, and more interpersonal and interfamily strife, than do the middle- and upper-middle class people they want to be like. It should come as no surprise that the politics of reaction is strongest where there is most to react to. People in states like Massachusetts, for example, which has very high per capita incomes and the lowest divorce rate in the country, are relatively unconcerned about gay marriage, while those in Southern states with much higher poverty, divorce, and single-parenthood rates feel the family to be threatened because family life is, in fact, much less stable in their communities. In such environments, where there are few paths to social solidarity and a great deal of social disruption, the church frequently steps into the breach, further exacerbating the fight.

Looking at the anti-choice marchers today, I felt I was looking in the faces of folks who were ripe to blame social disruption in their lives on the big, bad city and its unruly inhabitants. San Franciscans don't look like the anti-abortion marchers (even if they also don't look like many of the pro-choice protesters.)

Both crowds today were predominantly white. Both had a significant number of quite young people, though I'd say the anti-choice set had more teenagers (members of "Respect Life" clubs at Catholic high schools?) while the pro-choice young folks seem to consist more of young 20s, living independently of their families. Both had a sprinkling of older people. The huge difference between them was the presence among the anti-choice of lots of white men in middle age. These men's expectations for their lives and roles have been torn apart by social and economic forces they cannot control. They are ripe to be led against someone.

Their churches lead them against women's freedom. Several contingents apparently had been taught that mumbling continual "Hail Marys" would prevent contamination as they passed protesters. As a Christian believer, it was painful to watch folks praying the rosary as an incantation against other people who believe differently. This is not my faith. (Okay, I might was well say it: I'm not wild for abortion, but I figure that after millenia of old guys making the rules, we need at least a few hundred years of women's autonomy before we can sort out the ethics related to giving birth.)

Two young lesbians told me of having been set on by a man who wanted to exorcize Satan from them. I wasn't surprised.
15aAA-exorcist- 15AA-guysincollars
Meanwhile the pro-choice demonstrators, many of them, are refuges from the world of the anti-choice. I actually heard two discussing how they had "recovered from religion." They are intentional city folks; many are gay; many look at U.S. society and "just say no." They have no truck with Christianity that they think of as either unfounded nonsense or the stalking horse of fascism. One final sign said it all for me:


Christina Dunigan said...

Why all the lamentation about women who might die if abortion was recriminalized, and absolute indifference to the women killed by legal abortion? Either way, she's just as dead.

Every woman dead from an abortion died at the hands of a prochoicer. Maybe y'all ought to stop waving the coathangers you used to kill them. The blood's on your hands, not ours.

Anonymous said...

Granny, long time since you had a kid I guess, perhaps you forgot that it's much more of a risk to a woman's life to carry a pregnancy to term than to have a legal abortion.

You have plenty of blood on your hands. Look at all the children out there that are not being looked after, whether born from women in poverty here or overseas. Anti-choicers lose interest once an unwanted child is born. You care as much about them as you do about the young women who will die if they don't have access to clean, safe abortions, which is NOT AT ALL.

Anonymous said...

these jackasses need to realize how important abortion is to keeping america white, sure they have nice white girls saying they don't like abortion but how will they like it when their taxes are supporting their black sisters and their nine kids from different fathers, as I always say, better dead than poor and black

Anonymous said...

right on!
keep up the good fight

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase the wonderful logic of the pro-abortion folks on the sidelines who were chanting, "If you don't like abortion, don't have one!" I offer this to those who lament the (nowhere near imminent) loss of the "right" to legal abortion: "If you don't like back alley coathanger abortions, then don't have one!" There, isn't that great, compelling logic? Aren't you convinced? Can you pro-abortion folks PLEASE come up with something more reasonable to harrass us with? You guys are simply an embarrassment to yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Does the last sign really say it all? Let's do the many have died in Iraq? I am not sure of the actual number, but let's say a couple of thousand Americans and around 5,000 Iraqis. Now abortion: over 40 million since it was legalized in 1973. How many years have we been in Iraq? How many abortions are done a year? This one does not even make sense on a utilitarian ethic.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
janinsanfran said...

Look -- I know everyone who comments here thinks they are arguing for something they hold sacred: LIFE!

Abortion confronts us with lives in competition: an adult woman and the life of her fetus. I believe the adult woman has have the right to make the choice about whether that fetus lives or dies. Some people think others-- fathers, priests, judges--have a say in that.

I know we get angry as we try to discuss these competing rights. That is okay, but calling people we can't see and don't have to deal with names is not okay. And race baiting is not okay either.

In general, I want people to feel they can comment here. But I will use my power to remove comments that I think go to far from dialogue into insult. If folks want to do that, they'll have to go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

abortions are removing blobs of tissue like when you take a shit, they aren't people like iraqis unless you think iraqies are made of shit

do you think iraqis are made of shit? DO YOU?

Anonymous said...


Iraqis are made of skin, muscle, bone, nerve cells, etc.

So are human fetuses.

Anonymous said...

how many have died in Iraq? I am not sure of the actual number, but let's say a couple of thousand Americans and around 5,000 Iraqis.

Boy, when you're not sure, you're really not sure. Try 28,000 to 31,000 Iraqis killed.

Too bad your other numbers(Now abortion: over 40 million since it was legalized in 1973.) are just as wrong.(Hint: unless your number includes every OTHER amputation performed since 1973, it's too small.) Go back under your bridge, Troll.

Anonymous said...

To all you anti-choicers who love to celebrate the "sanctity of life"--take a look at what your President stands for re: the "sanctity" of life:

Anonymous said...

yeah an abortion is just like an amputation except its inside but that doesn't fucking matter because it's my body and I do what I want!

fetuses are tumours

Anonymous said...

The "abortion hurts women" argument, as shown in your pic, has always bugged me. As an adult woman with unimpaired intelligence, I'll decide what does damage to me, thanks very much. I don't need anti-choice activitists deciding that matter for me.

Anonymous said...

yeah and dont start any of that abortion kills women shit either because they aren't women until they have puberty and they are not there yet they are fucking tumours still and cant even breathe how can something that cant breathe be a woman? its not its a tumour and get yourlaws off my body I do what I want!

Christine the Soccer Mom said...

It's quite frightening that "anonymous" has such a poor understanding of basic biology.

This was a very different view than I've seen of that march in San Francisco at various sites. What I saw (and I have seen chunks of it on TV - it was carried in its entirety on EWTN - was peaceful, mostly young people marching quietly while pro-abortion rights activists held demeaning signs, tried to block the way (pamphlets were handed out in order to drum up support for stopping the Walk for Life), and (some) screaming insults at the people walking with the Pro Lifers. Even the SF Chronicle had more pictures of menacing pro abortion folks than of peaceful ones. Most, at the least, looked rather unhappy.

Meantime, the Pro Lifers, in case you hadn't heard, were instructed to NOT respond to anything said to them. The "repeated Hail Marys" would be the Rosary, which was not said as some incantation to prevent some kind of infection from Pro Abortion activists. Instead, it was being offered as a prayer for an end to abortion. (It's not all about you, you know.) Most likely, if it was like the March in Washington, DC, then all twenty decades were offered for that intention.

While I wasn't at the March in SF, I was at the one in Washington, DC, and I have to tell you this: overwhelmingly, the crowd was young. And LOTS of them from colleges or young people living on their own. Notre Dame and St. Mary's had three busloads by themselves. Our bus, which was put together at the last minute, had people from elementary school (my own daughter begged to go, and I'll let her next year) through high school and college, along with young adults (okay, 30's probably isn't THAT young) and on up to senior citizens. The people I saw there were from all walks of life (and I've got lots of pictures up on my own site of it).

Really, though, I have to say that for me, my Pro Life stance comes not from my religious faith (though it is certainly supported by it). My stance comes from an understanding of basic biology: from the moment of conception, a separate being with unique DNA exists and it grows along a continuum that brings it from that point through adulthood, provided no one interrupts that life cycle. I am the same being I was at conception. And to kill me now would be just as wrong as to kill me then. Or vice versa.

Christine the Soccer Mom said...

Oh, and one other thing. The number of abortions has now reached 47,000,000. And, no, it doesn't include amputations, since they are (obviously) different. Amputations remove a part of a person's own body. An abortion removes a unique human being from his/her mother.

Anonymous said...

It's my body, I do what I want!