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Walk for Life vs. Roe v. Wade birthday party: Abortion showdown SF

At this point I scampered over to the Civic Center to see how the real Walk for Life was shaping up.

Oh. My. God.

Seriously, I was not prepared for the size of the crowd. I had asked a policeman preparing the route along Market Street about the size of the protest, and he said it was "the biggest I've ever seen."

I arrived just as the Walk for Lifers were told to assemble along the parade route. I just stood there as a sea of people flowed past me. By this stage, the vast majority of them were already behind me.

(More photos of the crowd can be found at Big Journalism and SFGate. A panoramic photo of the Civic Center crowd can be viewed here.)

The official estimate was "more than 50,000" marchers, while the San Francisco Chronicle only vaguely said "tens of thousands." ABC said "The crowd was so large that it took the better part of an hour for it to clear the [Civic Center] plaza." I'll have to settle for the 50,000 guesstimate, but will note this: This 2013 Walk for Life crowd was far larger than some San Francisco anti-war protests I attended back in 2003 and 2004 which at the time were said to be 100,000 or 200,000 or more. So either the size of the liberal crowd was over-estimated back then, or the size of the conservative crowd was underestimated this year — or both. (Par for the course, I realize, but it must be noted.)

I wanted to get to the front of the march, but I quickly determined that it would be impossible to force my way through tens of thousands of people, so instead I took the long way around back to Market.

Along the way I encountered these cute nuns...

...and these young Catholics with interesting outfits and a rather arresting sign.

Someone carried a pointed quote from Mother Teresa which directly confronted the pro-choicers' argument that abortion should be legal because not all women who become pregnant are "ready" to have a child — i.e. that it all comes down to a matter of convenience. But of course the Mother Teresa quote relies on the assumption that the embryo/fetus/whatever is already a person, a claim which the pro-choice side rejects.

(Perhaps I should pause to briefly explain where I myself stand on the abortion issue. Although I'm very close to being in the middle on an issue that seems to have no middle, if forced to declare sides I'd have to say [most likely to everyone's surprise] that I'm pro-choice. But just barely.

Yet unlike just about seemingly everyone else in this debate, I also know that my opinion is just my personal opinion and nothing more, and shouldn't be forced on the nation at large.

Both sides tend to slide down the slippery slope to extremes: pro-choicers generally want to allow abortion up until the ninth month with no restrictions, no cost, no parental approval or even notification, no shame, no regret. Many pro-lifers declare that even a single-cell fertilized egg is already a fully fledged human being with all human rights, and want no exceptions for rape, incest or anything else. Me, I think both of these positions are untenable — which leaves me in the impossible situation of deciding at which arbitrary point in gestation that an egg/zygote/embryo/fetus/whatever does make the transition from cell to human. Currently I've settled on the compromise that a baby achieves "ensoulment" when its neural system develops to such an extent that brain activity can be detected — somewhere around the fourth month, if I understand correctly. Therefore, abortion in the first trimester doesn't bother me nearly as much as abortions in the second [or third] trimester.

But luckily I'm not a dictator making the rules, because I frankly confess I'm no expert in matters biological or theological. You wanted my opinion, you got it.

Even so, I still think Roe v. Wade should be overturned! Why? Because my firm belief in [modern] federalist principles easily trumps my wavering grasp of embryology. Roe v. Wade is a prime example of judicial overreach: the central government's powers are strictly limited to those enumerated in the Constitution and everything else must necessarily fall to the individual states. And abortion is definitely not mentioned in the Constitution. Thus the citizens of each state should have the power to enact any laws conforming to that state's "local standards." If Vermont wants to legalize abortion, so be it; and if Alabama wants to outlaw it, then so be it as well. That's the way it was before Roe v. Wade, and that's the way it should have remained.

Don't get me wrong: I'd be just as opposed to any law or ruling that banned abortion nationwide as I am opposed to the current ruling which legalizes it nationwide. To me, the content of a law or ruling doesn't so much matter as the principles under which it is enacted. And in this instance, the legality of abortion one way or the other should be decided for each state by the citizens of that state, and should not be imposed by an all-powerful central government.

So yes, in this essay I note the many hypocrisies and idiocies of the pro-choice activists, even though I'm "on their side." Yet the small extent to which I'm technically "pro-choice" [up until the fourth month at least] is overwhelmed by the great extent to which I disagree with the pro-choicers' tactics and extremism, and most importantly with their desire to force their opinions on the entire nation in violation of Constitutional principles.)

Where were we? Oh that's right, the march...

Finally I got in front of the assembled marchers just as the Walk for Life began. The carried their signature "Abortion HURTS Women" banner, which they carry every year.

To be honest, that seems like somewhat of a peculiar choice to have as the march's main message. If it's the Walk for Life, shouldn't the focus be on the life of the unborn child, rather than the pain experienced by the mother? Also, mightn't it be more advisable to have a positive message foregrounded rather than a negatively phrased slogan? Maybe starting next year, instead of the grumpy "Abortion HURTS Women," try something like "Honor All Life" or "Every Human Being Is Infinitely Precious" or something a bit more uplifting.

The crowd surged forward with a seemingly mile-long column stretching off into the distance and back into Civic Center Plaza.

The march route took us straight down Market Street all the way from Civic Center to the Embarcadero. While the main tenor of the event was somber and serious (as it should be, in contrast to the flippant and frivolous atmosphere at the earlier pro-choice event), here are some of the more interesting signs and scenes I encountered along the way.

I particularly liked signs that confronted or mocked liberal hypocrisies, such as this fetus saying "Pretend I'm a Tree and Save Me."

Or this one, which riffed on the "COEXIST" bumper sticker so beloved by liberal Volvo drivers.

The "Zinger of the Day" award goes to Ronald Reagan for this quip, which remains as funny and devastating as when he first said it.

On a more serious note: The most effective message of the day and the one that the pro-choice side least wants to see was this sign held by an African-American pro-life marcher which read "Abortion is racist baby lynching!"


Abortion is already enough of a hot-button issue; but add race into the mix and you have ideological nitroglycerin. Nobody denies that African-American women abort their babies at a rate that far exceeds that of any other race — a black fetus or embryo is five times more likely to be aborted and killed than is a white fetus or embryo — so the argument has now turned to whether or not this is a good thing. Progressives contend that it is liberating for poor black women not to be burdened with far more babies than they can possibly afford to raise. But conservatives — including and especially a growing number of black pastors — point out that this essentially results in a slow-motion genocide of the black race.

But the problem goes much deeper than that for the progressives. Margaret Sanger was a leader of the progressive movement near its beginnings over a century ago and was of course also the founder of Planned Parenthood, and is universally acknowledged as the one person most responsible for making abortion mainstream and acceptable. To this day, as evidenced by this sign held by one of the pro-choice counter-protesters, she remains a hero to progressives.

So what's the problem? This: Margaret Sanger was a racist and a eugenicist, and frankly admitted that the main goal of her birth control and abortion advocacy was to decrease the number of "unfit" people in society. Even Wikipedia is forced to admit "Sanger believed that lighter-skinned races were superior to darker-skinned races," and that she also advocated for the forced sterilization of the disabled and slow-witted — to prevent them from breeding and contaminating the "race."

Arguments still rage about what exactly Sanger meant when she said various now-infamous quotes such as "We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members"; did she "not want the word to go out" because (as Planned Parenthood now insists) black genocide was never her intent? Or did she "not want the word to go out" because (as some black intellectuals then and now suspect) then her exterminationist goal would be thwarted?

Weighing all the other evidence and judging by the context of her other beliefs — that blacks are inferior, that abortion is part of a larger eugenics movement designed to remove inferior people from the population, that much of her highfalutin' language about "choice" and "freedom" was just a smokescreen to hide her true goal of achieving racial purity — I find it hard to reach any other conclusion than that she truly did want to decrease the number of blacks in America.

As long as Margaret Sanger remains a hero to the left, and as long as her organization Planned Parenthood remains at the forefront of abortion advocacy, the progressive movement will continue to be burdened by the true story of its racist origins. Which is why signs like "Abortion is racist baby lynching!" are so dangerous to the progressive self-narrative.

Along the route the marchers were met by a smattering of counter-protesters. We already met this woman in a video presented at the beginning of this report. It's such a revealing video that it merits a second viewing, this time in context as it occurred during the march:

Naive viewers might be mystified as to why this horrid old witch keeps shouting "vagina" and "vaginal probe" and "uterus" at children. It is no accident — it's part of a conscious strategy increasingly used by the left. As I noted in my report about the Walk for Life three years ago, the goal is "to use vulgarity and sexuality to rob the other side of its innocence and somehow in the process thereby drag the pro-lifers into the gutter where prim virginity is no longer a source of power but rather something to be mocked." Progressives like this woman try to win converts not by defeating their opponents' arguments but rather by using degradation and explicit lasciviousness to sully the chastity of conservative children. Progressives do this institutionally with X-rated sex education classes in public middle schools, they do it when they dress up as vulvas in pro-Democratic campaign ads, they do it with overly sexualized lyrics, TV shows and movies, and when all else fails, they do it by spitting "Vaginal probe!" in the faces of little girls.

Here's an interesting scene: a secular pro-life organization walking past an aggressively atheist pro-choice banner. Most people generally frame the debate exclusively along religious lines: Christians are all pro-life, non-Christians are all pro-choice. But as this photo reveals, it's not so cut-and-dried: There are pro-life secularists, and plenty of pro-choice liberal Christians too.

Every now and then the march would halt, to allow photographers to get crisp photos of the leading phalanx.

Here and there, hecklers would yell at the marchers, as seen in this video.

Of all the signs, this was (in my opinion) the most well-conceived and upbeat: Focus on the positivity of life, and the joy of the family.

Conversely, this was the most ill-conceived. While it may be technically true that Hitler supported abortion, it violates a corollary to Godwin's Law, which states "Whichever side in a dispute first mentions Hitler automatically loses the argument." Well, now that I think about it, the left have been calling the pro-lifers "fascists" and "Nazis" for decades, so I guess they already lost the argument, but in any event it isn't smart to stoop to their level. Furthermore, while it is true that in some totalitarian states abortion is sometimes legal and encouraged (or even compulsory), in other totalitarian regimes at various points in history (especially when the government wants cannon fodder for upcoming wars) abortion is strictly outlawed. Since the argument cuts both ways, it's best to drop it.

But the march was mostly composed of regular people with no signs at all or with non-controversial signs like "Defend life."

I tried to get a photo from an elevated vantage point to show just how long the column of pro-lifers was, but it extended literally as far as the eye (or even the camera) could see. Overwhelming.

Meanwhile, back at Powell and Market, the pro-abortion crowd had finally wised up that the handful of people that they'd been arguing with were not the entirety of Walk for Life, so by this time there were counter-protesters lined up awaiting the arrival of the main march. Big banners declaring "Abortion on Demand & Without Apology" and "Life Begins When You Stand Up to Christian Fascists" awaited the marchers.

The pro-abortion crowd may have thought that they had overwhelmed the small vanguard WLO contingent by sheer numbers, eventually arraying themselves along the sidewalk and dominating the intersection. And then...a wall of pro-lfers descended on them and practically washed them away like corks on a raging river. The two photos below were taken from approximately the same vantage point, the first one showing the confident pro-abortion crew dominating the scene...while the second one shows the same spot a few minutes later as the first wave of pro-lifers overwhelms them:

The "Abortion on Demand" signs finally met their match in the "1/3 of our generation has been killed by abortion" fetal skeleton signs.

There wasn't much mention of the president all day, but what little Obama-love there was could all be found among the pro-abortion contingent.

As the front of the march passed by the counter-protesters, the "Abortion on Demand & Without Apology" banner noticeably deflated, as the following four photos in sequence show:

I'm not sure if this was simply a coincidence or instead was the pro-abortion crowd literally feeling the wind go out of their sails.

The pro-lifers were all smiles as they passed through the enemy camp, barely even acknowledging their detractors.

We started the day with the pro-choice dancers trying to win the culture war by harnessing the hormonal power of female adolescence; but the pro-life crowd one-upped them with wholesome adolescent estrogen energy. Touché!

The march continued all the way to the Embarcadero, essentially without further incident.

Were any minds changed? Hard to say. But the pro-lifers once again vastly outnumbered their opponents even on the pro-choice "home turf." And while the day's pro-choice narrative was muddled, scattershot and occasionally hypocritical, the pro-lifers kept a unified and morally consistent message. In the end, neither side openly acknowledged what I think this battle is actually all about — whether or not we should encourage casual sex so as to undermine the nuclear family, or discourage casual sex to affirm the nuclear family — but the pro-life crowd came closest to being honest about their goals.