Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

Connecting Revolution with Abortion Clinic Defense

Dear Revolution,

Starting in mid-September, there was a call from forces in the religious right for "40 Days of Life"—focused on 40 days of praying and demonstrating against abortion clinics. It's a national effort with different cities targeted across the country, probably 50 places on their map. They've got a website: In our city they seemed to be focusing on a family planning clinic in the heart of the city that has been a major target for some years, but we also found they had a big presence at a Planned Parenthood clinic in an outlying suburb. Revolution Books got an email from a group called Radical Women, announcing that they planned to form a picket line at the central city clinic on one of the weekends. I attended, and so did two students from my college class. Most of the picketers on our side all seemed to be with Radical Women and ISO.

A woman (who doesn't seem to be with either of those groups) found out about the campaign and she's been organizing clinic escorts to counter the antis, setting up her own website called She and her friend, plus several other women, donned the "Clinic Escort" shirts and escorted women entering and leaving the clinic. I had on my Revolution T-shirt and my sign was the front page of the newspaper with Dr. Tiller on it and "Fetuses are not babies" written next to it.

I got out four copies of Revolution with the article on the murder of Dr.Tiller. I also got out one copy of the issue with the centerfold on "Fetuses Are Not Babies" to a student from Iran. She said four of her friends inside of Iran have recently had abortions, which are illegal, but doctors do them anyway. The woman who organized the Clinic Defense had been a student at Vassar and was a clinic escort there, and she is familiar with the paper. One of the women from Radical Women told me I should bring the centerfold of "Fetuses Are Not Babies" because she thought that was great. Another said she was in Jacksonville with Sunsara Taylor.

The anti-abortionists had between 10-30 people that came and went through the day, and our side had a similar number—sometimes they outnumbered us and vice-versa. They knelt and prayed, sang hymns, and some aggressively tried to get through our lines. There seemed to be at least two different groups of them. About 5-10 were young immigrants, who both prayed and tried to distribute literature. Others were mainly older whites, and one of them was identified as having been at a demonstration called by the anti-immigrant and racist Minutemen.

A couple of the women were very aggressive and tried to break our lines to get at the women coming out of the clinic. They called the cops on us three times, saying we were trying to coerce a 14-year-old into having an abortion and accusing us of pushing them. A student and I worked to help block the antis with our signs as the woman and escorts walked past. A young Latina anti got so frustrated with not being able to hand out literature she took a swipe at the student, but the student ducked and wasn't hit.

About 10 students in a class I am in have signed up to be part of this. One of the young men is very enthusiastic and is taking the lead to organize Students for Critical Thinking on campus. He wants to do outreach on campus and is doing the paper work to get a book table to sell used books to raise money for Libros Revolución bookstore. Everyone has gotten the paper. Most of them have seen the centerfold "Fetuses Are Not Babies" and someone will download it to make a poster for the demonstration this Saturday which is supposed to be the largest demonstration of the 40-day campaign. I read the centerfold out loud to some of the students and we had a discussion about this and there were questions about when does a fetus feel pain and when a fetus becomes a baby.

Two people are going to the Planned Parenthood clinic in the outlying suburb, and others have signed up to be clinic escorts and/or demonstrate on Saturday. As we were leaving campus after class, one of the men saw there was a table on campus that was promoting the "40 Days" campaign and anti-abortion. He called me and three of us made quick signs and went out there next to them with signs and doing some chants. After about 20 minutes the antis said they had to leave because they only had the table until 6:30—saying "you didn't make us leave, we had planned to leave now anyway."

As they were leaving they said they were students at the school and have formed a student organization around this. They were all young Latinos—two women and a man. They wanted to talk to us and have a "reasonable discussion," and we did for a brief time. The students were both really excited about having taken them on and didn't back down or feel intimidated. The antis were pretty persistent in countering the slogan—A Fetus Is Not a Baby. This is their main premise, and my sign got a lot of reaction from the antis last week.

The other side is clearly going on the offensive around this issue, and the Town Hall meetings around the country have probably emboldened a lot of these people. I've signed up to get daily reports from the "40days4life" website where they talk about all the successes they have had—a woman deciding not to have an abortion, a clinic worker quitting, etc.

It was an opportunity to promote Sunsara Taylor's upcoming talk in our city. I've encouraged them to go online to see her on YouTube and then meet her in person. I've contacted people from the Away With All Gods! discussion groups that were formed in past semesters and am trying to get some of the women's organizations in the city to attend—one of them sent out the notice of Sunsara's talk to their email list, saying it looked really interesting and encouraging people to attend.

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