Abortion-rights supporters counterprotest first West Coast Walk for Life since overturning of Roe v. Wade

Anti-abortion protesters and abortion rights supporters clash at the first West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

SAN FRANCISCO — As young Walk for Life volunteers in neon yellow vests chanted, “We are the Pro-Life generation” from across the street, a woman stood at the front of the counterrally, holding her 10-month-old baby in one arm and a protest sign in her other.

Part of a smaller counterrally on the steps of the San Francisco Public Library, Stefani Echeverría-Fenn and her baby stared down the thousands of anti-abortion protesters who convened in San Francisco to join the West Coast Walk for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally and march this year set for the eve of the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

For Echeverría-Fenn, the anniversary reminds that her daughter will grow up with fewer rights than she did, after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, leaving abortion protections up to individual states.

Echeverría-Fenn faced complications during her pregnancy, including an emergency induction.

Her baby was born with a birth defect that was not detected by ultrasound and required two immediate surgeries. “Throughout all this, I just kept on thinking: I can’t imagine if I was going through this not by choice, not in a position where I had financial resources, where I had insurance,” she said.

If people were really pro-life, she said, “they would be out here advocating to fund UCSF, which is so close to here, and that really, you know, saved my baby’s life.”

She and others gathered first at the Phillip Burton Federal Building, where organizers, led by the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice – SF, held a rally. The group — joined by organizations including the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Unitarian Universalist Church of SF, and the Raging Grannies — then marched one block to the SF Public Library, where they could see the West Coast March for Life: a crowd helmed by a banner reading “Abortion Hurts Women” and dotted by towering Lady of Guadalupe banners. The pro-life crowd numbered in the tens of thousands, according to CBS Bay Area.

Among the crowd was a contingent of Catholic students and community members from Stanford and UC Berkeley, led by Stanford junior DJ Maceda.

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Maceda said the future of the movement lies in increased resources to support pregnant people. “If it’s been struck down nationally, this is the time for pro-life politicians and pro-life voters, pro-life people, to put their money where their mouth is about caring for people in this situation,” he said.

For many pro-life advocates, the overturning of Roe v. Wade also signals a shift from a focus on national legislation to a focus on state legislation, such as the recent passage of Proposition 1.

California voters passed Proposition 1 in the recent elections, which amended the California constitution to explicitly protect the right to an abortion and contraceptives.

In the city of San Francisco and state of California, support for abortion protections saw overwhelming success in the 2022 elections.

When anti-abortion protesters proceeded from the Civic Center Plaza on their marching route to Embarcadero Plaza at 1:30 p.m., a line of police officers separated the two rallies, as the anti-abortion crowd swelled closer to the counterrally and competing chants intensified. While the rallies remained peaceful, protesters on both sides of the debate broke out into shouting matches.

“My favorite chant is: ‘Pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if people die,’” said 84-year-old San Francisco resident Kristin Anundsen, who has lived in SF for 40 years. Chants at the counterrally alternated uses of “people”’ and “women” to recognize the right of pregnant people, regardless of gender, to seek an abortion.

“We may be a smaller group,” Anundsen said, “but that’s because we didn’t bus people in from all over the country.”

Sister Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and a speaker at the rally, echoed this idea. “Here we are screaming at them to leave because this is not where they belong, ” she said. “This is not what we believe here.”

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, according to Sister Roma, is a nonprofit that mobilizes action around human rights issues. It is also known in San Francisco for its history of LGBTQ activism, made distinctive by its use of drag and religious iconography.

“We know that the people on the other side of the street have a laundry list of people that they would like to strip the rights away from,” Sister Roma said. “If you’re queer or trans…if the overturn of Roe v. Wade did not send chills down your spine, it should.”

Trina Robbins, an 84-year-old resident of San Francisco for nearly fifty years, said she has attended protests in the city since 1960. She remembers well the day the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. “I felt like it would last forever; it felt like we were there,” she said, “What I’ve learned is that you’re never really safe.”

Kevi Johnson

Kevi Johnson (she/her) is a junior at Stanford studying English & Creative Writing, with an intended minor in Asian American studies. She is a staff writer and copy editor for The Stanford Daily.

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