San Francisco Protests vs. Abortion Emergency

"The Blood of Women Is on THEIR Hands!"

April 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

On April 11, a "Spotlight on the Abortion Rights Emergency" program was held at the Women's Building in San Francisco's Mission District. The event brought together professors, providers, artists, activists, the voices of women from both pre- and post-Roe v. Wade generations, and an audience of 60 people. Stop Patriarchy presented this evening of important voices from different perspectives, coming together to lay bare the true state of emergency facing abortion rights and the need for determined mass resistance and reclaiming the moral high ground: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology! and Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement!

San Francisco, April 12, 2014. Photo: Special to Revolution

Banners bearing these two slogans were on the walls along with photo portraits of women whose deaths were due to illegal and unsafe abortions: names, dates of death, sometimes only a photo of a woman's gravestone. The program kicked off with a video clip showing last summer's Abortion Rights Freedom Ride rally in Fargo, North Dakota. Then came the speakers: wrenching personal stories of the unjust shame and stigma heaped on those who have had abortions. Academic and scientific explanations about the unrelenting legal and physical assaults on providers as well as the medical necessity of this procedure. And analysis linking these attacks on abortion rights to the larger capitalist system that objectifies women as either breeders or sex objects. It was both moving and challenging to find so many people from diverse backgrounds speaking passionately to the Stop Patriarchy themes—repeatedly, speakers pointed toward and spoke with conviction about the messages on the banners—and the program reached the heads and hearts of everyone in the room.

Speakers included Dr. Malcolm Potts, an eminent reproductive scientist and scholar who has done extensive work in the Third World; he testified about the true horrors women face around the world when safe and legal abortions are not accessible. Artist Kelly Hammargren, curator of a recent prestigious art show about abortion rights and abortion stories, shared her personal abortion experiences and reflected on the ways social stigma affects women's choices. The president of SF NOW (National Organization for Women), Somer Loen, spoke about the current state of abortion law, myths about the law, and how abortion rights are being destroyed.

History professor Rachel Martin addressed the importance of fighting for abortion rights, and explored the contradictions between her strong identification with her Irish Catholic heritage and being a resolute feminist in the struggle for the lives of women. Alexandria Petersburg, a Stop Patriarchy leader, powerfully connected the assault on abortion rights in states like Mississippi with the larger national abortion rights emergency, and with the larger terrain where capitalism denies women their basic humanity, whether through relegating them to being commodities and objects to be bought, sold, and abused, or simply to be breeders of children. She ended the night with a challenge for everyone in the room to step into this movement, to refuse to accept the unacceptable, and to be a part of reclaiming the moral high ground for abortion rights in the streets the next day.

The next afternoon, several dozen people gathered at the entrance to St. Peter & Paul Church in San Francisco. This church is the "home parish" of the anti-abortion "Walk for Life 2014"—the event that annually draws thousands of anti-abortion marchers to San Francisco on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. For one hour, eight women and men, young and old, wearing all white and holding up bloody coat hangers, stood in a silent row facing the church and everyone who walked in and out for the evening mass. Behind those in white stood another 20 people wearing black, holding up images and names of women whose lives were cut short from unsafe abortions in the years before Roe v. Wade. A huge cardboard arrow saying "The Blood of Women Is on THEIR Hands!" was held aloft and pointed at the church the entire time. Some parishioners were shocked to see this tableau; some were hostile, but not all. And many people passing by gave thumbs up, took fliers, stopped to talk—and several stayed to join the action.

The hour of silence was ended with the mic check reading of the Pledge to Defend Abortion Rights and Defeat the War on Women. The group marched into a nearby park chanting, "When abortion is illegal, women die!" and "Forced motherhood—is female enslavement!" and gathered in the park where people had a chance to share their thoughts after the action.

Two college students who heard about the weekend from a Stop Patriarchy organizer who had made an announcement to their class, spoke of how important these actions have been in addressing the emergency going on. Others talked about overcoming the shame they had been made to feel about abortion. An older woman talked about families and friends whose hopes and dreams were snuffed out by forced motherhood, by a church that prohibits birth control and abortion. In addition, people who have been involved in the movement for revolution spoke about where all of this reality is coming from, and the possibility of a world where all this horror is no more. The day ended with a lot of reflection, excitement, and determination going forward.


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