An annual anti-abortion rally and consecutive march drew thousands of “pro-lifers” — activists and supporters of the movement — to Civic Center Plaza on Saturday carrying balloons and signs that expressed their opposition to a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy.
“It is wrong always to kill human beings — no exceptions,” said CJ Williams, director of outreach and education at Rehumanize International.
The annual Walk for Life march originated on the East Coast 45 years ago in direct opposition to Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that extended constitutional protection and privacy to women seeking abortions. The tradition of marching in protest was instituted on the West Coast in 2005.
Organizers of this year’s event said they expected at least 50,000 participants. Police closed down Market Street from 10th Street to the Embarcadero, as well as Mission Street, for most of the afternoon as thousands of people marched toward the Ferry Building.
Participants included children and families — many gathered around informational booths that were set up along the Civic Center Plaza.
“We are here to proclaim that abortion hurts women, and to take back the narrative that abortion is a right, and personally, I’m here to take back pink,” said Eva Muntean, co-chair of Walk for Life West Coast, addressing the swelling crowd.
Muntean called signs held by participants during last weeks Women’s March — a worldwide protest advocating for legislative protection of human rights and other issues, including reproductive rights — “vulgar” and “downright mean.”
“The people were just so angry,” said Muntean. “Well, we are here to take back this beautiful plaza with joy and compassion.”
An expressed goal of the march is to “change the perceptions of a society that thinks abortion is an answer,” according to the Walk for Life West Coast website.
But several activists who attended the rally said the Women’s March and the anti-abortion movement did not need to be pitted against each other.
“Our goal is very similar to the Women’s March. We are out here for equality, nondiscrimination and nonviolence, we are here for the consistent application of that principle across the board,” said Williams. “If you are out for nonviolence and the equality and dignity of a human being, then we have a lot of common ground.”
A few of the participants carried signs denouncing President Donald Trump, despite his efforts around legislation restricting abortions and for defunding medical clinics that provide them.
During last week’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump criticized U.S. anti-abortion laws and called on the Senate to pass a pro-life bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Though the pro-lifers may have a powerful ally in Trump, not all agreed with his politics. Holding a sign that read “Pro-life, pro-peace, pro-impeachment,” Rachel Pickett lamented the perpetuation of “patriarchal attitudes and anti-women sentiments [by some] at this march,” adding that she had come to “give some balance.”
“Trump doesn’t speak for me. He’s busy not being interested in diplomacy with other countries, he’s not interested in supporting poor people, which is a huge part of the reason a lot of women think they need to get abortions,” said Pickett.
Though an advocate for the prohibition on abortions, Pickett admitted that she has yet to see legislation that she agrees with.
“I want to see a massive exception for any medical reason you can think of … because I don’t want to see police investigate every miscarriage, and I don’t want to see police investigating every late period,” she said. “That’s just absurd.”
Despite the massive turnout of pro-lifers, several counter-protesters were spotted in the crowd. “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion,” read a young woman’s sign.
A counter-protest was planned by pro-choice supporters, including the San Francisco Democratic Socialist of America, at the Federal Building.