Supporters and opponents of reproductive freedom participated in events across the country yesterday, marking the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade that legalized abortion for women in the US. Across the country – from Washington, DC to Wichita, KS and San Francisco, CA – events marked the political climate around abortion rights in the US.
The Annual March for Life in Washington, DC, which was heavily supported by the Knights of Columbus, Catholic dioceses, and parochial school children, garnered small press coverage. While the organizers are claiming that tens of thousands attended, eyewitnesses report that the numbers seemed more like thousands than tens of thousands. As usual, President Bush addressed the anti-abortion crowd by a telephone call from Camp David. An additional anti-abortion protest outside of the Metro Washington Planned Parenthood clinic was also extremely small. Just one busload of demonstrators stayed some 15 minutes.
Roe events in Washington, DC closed yesterday with a vigil organized by the National Organization for Women on the steps of the Supreme Court. The speaker line-up ended with DC Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) who spoke of the inability for women in the military to get an abortion, and the heightened hurdles to reproductive freedom that lower-income women face.
In Wichita, anti-abortion group Operation Rescue demonstrated for four days outside of the clinic where Dr. Tiller, one of the few late-term abortion providers in the US, works. On Friday, January 19, their opening day of protests, some 23 anti-abortion activists were outnumbered by twice as many supporters of the clinic. Despite calls from Operation Rescue’s leader Troy Newman, who estimated at least a hundred in attendance, and FOX News host Bill O’Reilly, who said that “there should be thousands of people demonstrating outside Tiller’s abortion clinic,” a member of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s field team reported that the largest attendance for any single event was between 50 and 60 anti-abortion protestors.
Finally, in San Francisco, several thousand anti-abortion activists marched while supporters staged a solid counter-protest.
“The relatively low turnout of anti-abortion activists on the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade plus the overwhelming wins in the ballot box of pro-choice candidates and the defeat of three initiatives shows that the anti-abortion movement is waning,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal of the events yesterday. “The debate over abortion bans, stem cell research, and the decision in the Terri Schiavo case has weakened the political clout of the anti-abortion movement.”
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