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Opposition Builds Against Anti-Abortion Rallies Planned in Major Cities

Reproductive freedom activists are organizing counter-protests to tell the truth about abortion.

The Trust Women Silver Ribbon Campaign, a movement that brings together groups supporting reproductive freedom, has petitioned San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to take down these banners, calling their statements hate speech and false.
Photo Credit: Alex Parkin


The lightposts alongside San Francisco’s Market St., its main thoroughfare, usually provide a welcoming touch to the city, adorned with snowflakes in the winter or rainbow flags during Pride. But the current banners are causing alarm—they read: “Abortion Hurts Women,” in advertisement for the anti-abortion Walk for Life rally happening in the city on January 25.

The Trust Women Silver Ribbon Campaign, a movement that brings together groups supporting reproductive freedom, has petitioned San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to take down the banners, calling their statements hate speech and false. 

The campaign’s co-director, Ellen Shaffer, told the local ABC News: "The truth is that abortion is one of the safest procedures women can have.… access to safe and legal abortions are critical to women's health."

While the mayor rejected the campaign’s demand, the city’s Board of Supervisors has come out in support of the banners’ removal.

Supervisor David Campos told ABC, "I think that we in government have a responsibility to be on record saying that, you know, in San Francisco we do trust women, we respect their right to decide for themselves and we're going to protect that right.”

Campos has sponsored a resolution to determine whether the banners violate city law. The Department of Public Works said it doesn't consider content when issuing banner permits, it only makes sure they don’t contain profanity or nudity.

But the banners are only part of the larger story on what’s in store next week for both San Francisco and Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, January 22, the March for Life in D.C. may draw hundreds of thousands of people; last year 650,000 people joined the march. In San Francisco on Saturday, January 25, tens of thousands may march down Market St. About 50,000 people attended last year’s event. Big church groups and Christian schools bus many of these marchers into the cities.

“A lot of them are kids who have never heard a counter opinion,” says Sunsara Taylor. Taylor is an initiator of Stop Patriarchy, a national movement against all forms of degradation of women, which, for its second year, is holding counter-protests in both cities. “So we feel it’s of great importance having them be exposed to a scientific-based, reality-based concept of what a fetus actually is, and what implications it has for women’s lives if they don’t have abortion rights.”

Women who have had abortions make up another large chunk of participants. 

Taylor said, “Huge numbers of them carry tremendous amount of shame and guilt that they should not be forced to feel.”

Taylor said counter-protests are vital, even in mostly liberal cities like San Francisco, because many people have not yet truly heard a pro-abortion argument. She said:

There’s a really dangerous, smug sense of ‘Oh we’re too enlightened for that,’ which is one, completely immoral because across this country this right is being snatched away from women, and it’s immoral to abandon women elsewhere just because you’re in a place like San Francisco. And two, it’s completely delusional to think that what’s going on in the rest of the country, if it’s not reversed, won’t come to where you are. And the fact is, even in San Francisco, young people have never heard an argument that is unapologetic about abortion.

Taylor and Stop Patriarchy urge that: “Fetuses are not babies. Abortion is not murder. Women are not incubators.” Taylor said, “Not many have heard a pro-abortion, unapologetic, unencumbered argument. … And no one is going to fight if they don’t understand it’s completely moral and necessary to have abortion.”