Resistance in the Face of Racism: Counter-Protesting the March for Life

By Feminist Campus Team
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A little over two weeks ago, on January 19, 2018, thousands of anti-abortion protesters turned up in Washington, D.C. to attend the 45th annual March for Life. Feminist Campus showed up too – wielding “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal” signs, ready to counter-protest. For many of us, this was our first time at the March for Life, and the first time that we had experienced so many vocal opponents of abortion at once. Two of our Feminist Campus interns who attended the March for Life counter-protest for the first time share their experiences of the day’s events:

Aina Ramiaramanana

As a woman of color who is also an international student from Africa, I am not new to aggression. In my time in the U.S., I have faced micro- and macroaggressions, and I am used to being surrounded by people who are not like me. I typically participate in rallies because it is so empowering to meet others who share similar values and who are willing to fight for the same things that I am willing to fight for.

Image: Reproductive rights activists and anti-abortion protesters engage one-on-one in front of the Supreme Court. Photo by Kelli Musick.

This year’s March for Life was the first time I participated in a counter-presence, and I did not know what to expect. In preparation for the counter-presence, I reminded myself of the times when I resisted all of the many instances of oppression I face on a daily basis, and told myself it would be the same, except on a larger scale. Nevertheless, I was nervous and scared that I would not have enough power to resist that big of a crowd.

Although there were moments during the counter- presence that I felt small, judged, and neglected, I saw the tremendous impact and need for our presence. From the comments anti-abortion advocates made about me personally, to the signs that I saw during the counter-presence, I noticed that there was so much ignorance among the marchers and that most of them did not even take a second to realize the cultural, historical, and social impacts of their March.

I quickly realized that I was standing for the millions of women who have risked and lost their lives because they lived in a time before Roe v. Wade: I stood there for women who were stripped of their right to make a choice regarding their own bodies. I felt empowered resisting and fighting against all of the attacks that aim to push women back to a time before Roe. I felt the need to stand against all of the men who walked with signs about “lost fatherhood” due to abortion because my sign served as a reminder that what a woman does with her body has nothing to do with them. For all of my life, I have had the privilege of having very few restrictions when it comes to my body. I have had a choice. And for as long as I live, I will continue to stand, shout, and march with my sisters to make sure that women and girls all around the world can have the power to make choices about their own bodies.

I realized the day of the March for Life that there is power in solidarity – whether you are standing in solidarity with 30 people or 30,000 people.

Skyler Ford

Attending the March for Life was an eye-opening experience. As an African American woman, I am used to not being in the majority, so being one of the not-so-many counter-protesters at the March didn’t shock me. What did shock me was the numerous times that speakers, protesters, and uneducated government officials made connections between the March for Life and the Civil Rights movement.
Hello!! They are two completely different things. You cannot adequately compare fighting for the right to safely walk around in your neighborhood without being verbally and physically abused because of the color of your skin to fighting to take away the right to choose what happens to your own body. This disrespect towards my ancestors showed me that people still do not understand the meaning of Civil Rights. Civil Rights means freedom, not control. Civil Rights does not mean making social and political decisions for women, but rather with women.
Image: Reproductive rights activists with the Feminist Majority Foundation, National Organization for Women, Lady Parts Justice League, and other passionate supports join together to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade at the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. Photo by Kelli Musick.

While protesting, I had the displeasure of being asked by cisgender men barely over the age of 20 (who I assumed had never birthed a child before or experienced an abortion): “How can African Americans support something like this? What about Planned Parenthood?” In 2015, when Ben Carson accused Planned Parenthood of trying to control the Black population, I was appalled. In that accusation, he discredited Black women’s ability to make the best choices for our bodies. I cannot speak for all Black women, but I know that my mom, aunts, sisters, and possibly every other Black woman that I have ever come in contact with are intelligent and strong-minded enough to make their own reasonable decisions about their reproductive health – their bodies.

I admit that the Black population does not have a strong relationship with the healthcare industry (and rightfully so – let’s not forget Henrietta Lacks), but we do have a long history of protesting and fighting for fair rights. A right to not be treated poorly based on the color of our skin. A right to live our lives freely.
Everyone deserves the right to make their own choices. The anti-abortion protesters at the March for Life want to take away our rights as women – as people – to do what we believe is best for our bodies. They want to take away our choice, and I stand strong, on January 19th and every day, for not letting them.
By Feminist Campus Team

@feministcampus

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