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Vol. 81/No. 8      February 27, 2017

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Actions defend women’s right to choose abortion

Militant/Betsey Stone
San Jose, California, mobilization Feb. 11 was one of many across country where defenders of women’s right to choose abortion greatly outnumbered pickets against Planned Parenthood.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Thousands of people rallied at the Planned Parenthood offices here Feb. 11 in response to coordinated protests across the country attacking women’s right to abortion and demanding defunding of the organization. The action opposing abortion here drew about 500 people.

At 8 a.m., an hour before the opposing rallies were scheduled to start, the streets around the clinic were beginning to fill with hundreds of supporters carrying signs saying, “I stand with Planned Parenthood,” “Keep abortion legal” and other slogans lettered on handmade placards.

A coalition of anti-abortion groups initiated more than 200 actions across the country Feb. 11, calling for the federal government to end Medicaid reimbursement to Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings and other health care. President Donald Trump has said he would support such a measure. A ban on federal funding for nearly all abortions has been in place since 1976, renewed every year by Congress.

Trump has reinstated a ban on U.S. government funding to international organizations that provide abortions or information on how to obtain one. As governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence was in the forefront of promoting state laws chipping away at women’s access to abortion.

In many cities, defenders of women’s right to choose abortion outnumbered those at the anti-Planned Parenthood rallies, in some cases as many as 10 to 1.

“It’s important for everyone to stand up against any attacks on women’s rights,” Robyn Sellman, a 25-year-old member of the National Organization for Women from East St. Paul, told the Militant here. “It’s awesome so many people came together to act on this. It shows what we can do when we organize to defend our rights.”

The rally here was built by word of mouth, on social media, and through organizations such as NOW. Students from women’s groups at area colleges met on their campuses and traveled together with their signs on public transportation to join the rally.

David Rosenfeld, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, took part in the action. “The labor movement and all working people have a vital stake in fighting against the attacks on Planned Parenthood and the myriad of state laws restricting women’s access to abortion,” read the statement he and supporters distributed.

In New York, some 300 people rallied across the street from the Planned Parenthood clinic in Manhattan chanting. “Their body, their choice,” “Fund Planned Parenthood,” and “Abortion is health care, health care is a right.” About three dozen opponents of abortion rights rallied on the opposite corner.

Many counterprotesters then joined a rally of a few thousand people in defense of Planned Parenthood at nearby Washington Square Park. Clinic representatives had urged supporters to rally away from the clinic, saying they didn’t want patients to see “chaos” outside.

“The right to choose abortion, to control our own bodies, is a requirement for women’s equality. It has been attacked by both Democratic and Republican party administrations from the moment it was decriminalized in 1973,” said Sara Lobman, a rail worker and member of the Socialist Workers Party, speaking at the rally outside the clinic. “The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling based it on the rights of the doctor. But it’s the right of a woman, and should be protected by the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law,” she said to applause. “We need to be in the streets to defend women’s rights in every state, not look to the Democrats.”

In San Jose, California, thousands lined the street near the Planned Parenthood clinic in an impressive show of support for women’s right to abortion. Waving signs and cheering as passing cars honked in support, they dwarfed the group of opponents of legal abortion picketing outside the clinic.

“No woman can call herself free who cannot choose the time to be a mother or not,” said one of the handmade signs held high at the march and rally that followed the protest near the clinic.

Speakers focused on the important heath services offered by Planned Parenthood to working people and youth, who would not have access to health care without it.

The action was organized by STAND San Jose. “We know that statistically speaking, making abortion illegal does not make women not have abortions — it ends safe abortions,” Rosa Warren, a founder of the group, told the San Jose Mercury News.

At actions in nearby Redwood City and San Francisco, demonstrators who supported legal abortion also outnumbered opponents.

There were similar actions backing women’s right to abortion and defending Planned Parenthood in well over 100 cities across the country.

Naomi Craine in New York and Betsey Stone in California contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Protesters discuss how to defend women’s rights
Defend abortion rights, state by state!
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