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SF Clinic Defenders Stand Firm Against Crusade For Life Protesters
Socialist-led clinic defenders stand off against and shout down the anti-abortion Catholic college group "Crusade For Life", protesting the past two Saturdays in front of San Francisco's Planned Parenthood clinic. The article looks at the abortion debate with an analysis of "Crusade' and the related reactionary movement
The “Crusade For Life”, a group of Catholic anti-abortion college students, has come to the Bay Area from July 15-27 protesting at abortion clinics. The Bay Area tour, part of a statewide tour from San Diego to Sacramento, included protests in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic at Bush and Franklin the past two Saturday mornings.
About 20 “Crusade” activists arrived on the morning of the 17th with their Vatican flag, vials of holy water, small plastic fetus figurines, rosaries, and a bullhorn. Pro-abortion activists were out in force to meet the Crusade both Saturdays, led by the International Socialist Organization and Radical Women/Freedom Socialist Party, along with Code Pink, the Abortion rights and Reproductive Justice Network and others. They outnumbered the “Crusade” by more than 2:1, with larger numbers the second Saturday. Planned Parenthood set up their own group of volunteers to form a “human shield” to line the sidewalk to the entrance to usher patients safely into the clinic.
Clinic defenders gave the group no space, surrounding them at close range, holding signs and continually shouting down the visiting group with loud chants. Chants included “Free abortion on, on demand”; “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, right wing bigots go away”; “Get up, get down, San Francisco is a pro-choice town”; “Pray, you’ll need it, your cause will be defeated” and "Pro-life, that's a lie, you don't care if women die". Chanting continued uninterrupted for hours until the “Crusade” left. The Crusade’s tactics, in the face of this harsh, vocal opposition, was to kneel quietly in silent prayer, holding rosary beads and occasionally breaking into strange, screeching, high-pitched religious songs. On the 17th, the “Crusade” finished up with a die-in on the sidewalk in front of the clinic. On the 24th, network television covered press conferences from both sides. They left for Sacramento then next day, and may have cut their Bay area tour short due to the vehement opposition.
PRO-CHOICE DEMANDS AND LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
Chants for safe and free and legal abortion on demand were many. Abortion is only available in about 14% of U.S. counties and only about 30% of counties here in pro-choice California. Easy access to birth control without restrictions and meaningful, accurate sex education in schools are continuing issues, as “right to lifers” have been successful in limiting the availability of abortion, birth control devices, and counseling services. Currently, pharmacists are allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for the “morning after pill” when it clashes with their anti-abortion beliefs.
Organizing is under way to defeat Proposition 73, the “Parental Notification Law” on this November’s state special election ballot. If passed, it will require abortion providers to notify parents when a woman under 18 years of age requests an abortion and require a 48-hour waiting period before the procedure is provided. A number of activists at the press conference expressed outrage that Senate Democrats are not trying to block Bush’s latest anti-abortion nominee to the Supreme Court and are working against a proposition.
WHO IS “CRUSADE FOR LIFE”?
“Crusade” members carried signs for “all.org”, a web site of the “American Life League”. Their positions are based on the premise that abortion is murder, that there have been about 46 million abortions since 1973 and the numbers are rising. They oppose abortion under all circumstances, including rape and incest and in cases where the mother’s health might be in danger or the child might be born with extreme disabilities. The reasoning is that the child deserves a chance for life in all circumstances.
They oppose birth control and sex education of any kind (except abstinence only). Their position is that sex is only for married couples and only for the purpose of producing children. Both sex education and birth control encourage sex outside of that context. They are also anti-LGBT in all regards. The web site includes a campaign to abolish Planned Parenthood. They explained that PP “supports ideas, philosophies, and actions completely opposed to the 10 Commandments”, and that “If people lived by the 10 Commandments, PP could not exist”. They focus on hazards of the abortion procedures, calling it “lethal and dangerous”, resulting in something called “Post Abortion Syndrome” which they probably made up. They are also outraged about health problems from birth control drugs.
The young leader who spoke at their press conference vilified pro-choice supporters for not allowing children to be seen as the “miracle” that they are. She blamed abortion as a direct cause of child abuse and sexual abuse, because it disrespects life. She was “disappointed” that she’d always had the impression that San Francisco is a tolerant city but that “this isn’t tolerance”. Their members were genuinely confused and upset by the harsh response. They claim no involvement with or support for any of the violent anti-abortion groups and tactics, including a handful of obviously disturbed older adults who stand in front of this clinic weekly with gross pictures of dismembered babies and inflammatory anti-abortion slogans. They admit to supporting the Bush agenda and being thoroughly anti-gay.
Our city has become a broad target for these groups. This is the third anti-abortion group picketing San Francisco this year. Over a thousand people marched through SF in January with signs reading “womendeservebetter.org”. That organization, “Feminists For Life” totally co-ops feminism, claiming true feminists are against abortion and that “women deserve better than abortion” A main goal is to reverse the Democratic Party’s pro-abortion stance. At that rally on the Embarcadero, an African American minister named Reverend Childress was co-opting the teachings of Martin Luther King and other great civil rights leaders. So these organizations are co-opting leftist history and tactics along with distortions of medical information in order to confuse the issue and convert moderate people to their cause. Each of these “pro-life” groups look like the face of Middle America that many San Franciscans have moved here to get away from.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Sadly, Planned Parenthood was vehemently against the clinic defense, claiming not to want a “raucous atmosphere” for their patients, and gave a short statement at the pro-choice press conference disavowing any support for clinic defense. Protests at abortion clinics can be very detrimental to women seeking abortions. Anti-abortion shouts and slogans, especially verbal and visual images of abortion as murder, can contribute to surgical complications by disturbing a patient’s emotional well-being minutes before the procedure. PP called the police on the clinic defenders as soon as the “Crusade” arrived, though the police supervised the activities without overt bias. While PP preferred a quieter atmosphere for their patients, there is no telling what the “Crusades” tactics might have been if they were allowed to protest without opposition. . They gave a short statement to the press last Saturday disavowing the clinic defenders.
This type of centrist bias and lack of political will appears to be business-as-usual for most community-based service organizations, since they rely heavily on government funding with contractual agreements to operate and top administrators are paid well. PP seems oblivious to the broader political climate they are operating under. At the January rally, most people with PP signs were busy cheering slightly liberal Democratic Party politicians like Tom Ammiano, Jake McGoldrick, and Mark Leno rather than confronting the visiting anti-abortion demonstrators. According to several people close to the action, PP is “neutral” on anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts as “pro-choice” Senators Boxer and Feinstein decline to move for a filibuster to block his nomination.
The International Socialist Organization, Radical Women/Freedom Socialist Party and other local activists and organizations are forming a coalition called the Abortion Rights and Reproductive Network, and will be meeting soon to determine future strategies and actions. Stay tuned.