Reporter's Notebook in D.C.:
Abortion on Demand and Without Apology
25th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Revolutionary Worker #942, February 1, 1998
I arrived in Washington, D.C. on January 21, the night before the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade--the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. For years the anti-abortion forces have tried to claim this day with their ugly anti-women demonstrations. But this year, Refuse & Resist! was determined to make a powerful and visible pro-choice statement in the streets and had called for a rally and march right near the spot where the "antis" were holding their rally and ma rch , before their march to the Supreme Court.
Donna McKenna, a college student who helped organize the demonstration, wrote in an R&R! press release: "We will be in Washington to take the spotlight away from the anti-abortionists, and to declare that we won't accept any restrictions on our right to control our own bodies. For many women, especially young ones, the `right to choose' is already a hollow promise. They can't have our day! They can't have our lives! We are in this to win!"
350 people attended the R&R! rally which was held on the mall--near the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court. A majority of the crowd were young people, mostly college students. Antioch Students for Choice (Ohio) organized a contingent of 90 people. Others came from Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, the Washington, D.C. area, and other places up and down the East Coast. Just about everyone was plastered with R&R!'s bright orange neon stickers "Abortio n On Demand and Without Apology!"
During the rally, young women proudly and without apology told about their experiences having abortions. The National Secretary of Refuse & Resist!, Dr. Robert Rockwell, spoke and read a statement from David Gunn, Jr., the son of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion provider who was murdered. Mary Lou Greenberg, member of Refuse & Resist! and the New York spokesperson for the RCP, spoke. There were speakers from the National Abortion Federation, Medical Students for Choice, and the National Organization for Wome n and statements from NARAL and abortion providers. The National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, to be held on March 10, 1998, was announced. Annika, a poet from Georgia, spoke and read a poem called "The Fall of Women." And folk singer Sandy Rapp sang her song "Remember Rose: A Song for Choice"--about Rosie Jiminez who died in 1973 from a back alley abortion, after Medicaid funding for abortions was cut.
As the anti-abortion crowd began marching down Constitution Avenue, pro-choice demonstrators took off on a spirited high-speed march aimed at beating them to the steps. Along the way confrontations between pro-choice demonstrators and antis broke out. We chanted: "Pray by day, bomb by night, that's the tactics of right-to-life!", "We won't go back, we won't submit, we ain't gonna take your backwards shit", "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, born-again bigots go away!" When we marched by the Capitol building the chant went up, "Not the church, not the state, women must decide our fate!"
From the Supreme Court, the cops tried to stop us. After some legal maneuvering, they let us go and we rushed up the street and up the steps. And there was the R&R! banner right in the front of the barricades, the biggest thing in sight. It read, "You Can't Have Our Day, You Can't Have Our Lives! Refuse & Resist!"
The antis moved toward us, onto the steps in front of the Supreme Court. There was little room to move either way as both sides faced off. The antis pushed their way through the crowd to put their signs among ours. Then a "war of signs" began. Among the antis' signs were "wanted posters" with pictures of abortion providers on them and signs that said "execute abortionists." They tried to batter down the R&R! banner with pictures of babies. The "baby" signs were fought over and finally all of them came d own. In their place someone stepped in and held up a sign that encouraged women to call Planned Parenthood for help in obtaining an abortion.
Hundreds of people crowded in, shoulder to shoulder. For most in our crowd, it was the first face-to-face contact with the antis. Some of our group had been carrying large bunches of balloons. Suddenly, the balloons began to lift a banner into the air--"Abortion Saves Women's Lives." The antis went nuts and attacked the balloons with anything they could find.
The hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators who went right up in the face, against the thousands of antis who had come to spew their ugly anti-women propaganda, had a powerful impact. The R&R! rally made it on the local and national TV news, as well as into the newspapers the next day--making it clear that the Christian fascists had been met with determined opposition on the 25th anniversary of Roe.
The following excerpts are from statements given January 22, 1998 at the R&R! demonstration in Washington, DC:
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