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San Francisco Catholic Politician Urges Abortion Rights Counter Protest

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

It is one of the ironies of San Francisco.

Catholic women who attend the same San Francisco church are lined up on opposite sides over the Walk for Life West Coast. A prominent and rising local politico leads the city board of supervisors in condemning the Walk. At the same time, members of her church’s young adult club are key organizers of the pro-life feminist event with its signature motto: "WOMEN DESERVE BETTER® than abortion."

San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier co-sponsored a January 11th resolution declaring San Francisco "Pro-Choice and Proud" and in a posting on the city government website urged abortion supporters to turn out for a counter demonstration sponsored by California NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

"I am urging all women to come to the rally to stand up for choice," Alioto-Pier said in a statement on the official San Francisco government site. A call to her office for comment was not returned to IgnatiusInsight.com. She attends St. Dominic Church, as does Walk co-chair Dolores Meehan and some other organizers.

A San Francisco Catholic Archdiocesan official said the Board of Supervisors’ press release "almost invites people to be hostile."

"The press release I saw is so filled with false information and frankly kind of provocative in that it almost invites people to be hostile and that bothered me," George Wesolek, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns, said. "Because San Francisco has a reputation for being a city with tolerance for all points of view but they are certainly not showing tolerance here."

The Board of Supervisors news release says: "Anti-choice demonstrators plan to descend upon San Francisco to protest women’s health and rights with a so-called ‘walk for life.’ Anti-choice hardliners plan to demonstrate against comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, birth control services, and the right to choose. Anti-choice marchers include radical groups such as Operation Rescue, which have a history of violence and harassment of medical clinics."

Walk for Life West Coast’s goal is to communicate compassion to women harmed by abortion, Walk organizer Meehan said.

"We are here for women. This Walk is not about politics–it is about reaching out to women to let them know we are here for them," said Meehan. Sex education and birth control aren’t part of the Walk message, and Operation Rescue is not a sponsor of this event, Meehan said.

"It is too bad the Board of Supervisors does not respect the right of all city residents and all citizens of this country to peaceably congregate and speak," Meehan said.

Three Bay Area Catholic bishops will help lead the Walk, as well as speakers Feminists for Life of America Vice President Sally Winn, Georgette Forney, chair of Silent No More Awareness Campaign for women who have had abortions, and Rev. Clenard Childress of L.E.A.R.N. (Life Education and Resource Network), and Black Genocide. Elias and Adela Ochoa of the Santa Rosa, CA, Cursillio Movement will speak in the Spanish about the effect of abortion on Hispanics.

"We refuse to choose between women and children. Like Susan B. Anthony, we must systematically eliminate the root causes that drive women to abortion," Winn said. Forney, who had an abortion in high school, will speak about society’s wish to cover up the pain of abortion. Childress, an African American Baptist minister, will speak about the cost to African Americans, "all are victims of pro-choice America," he says.

The other co-sponsor, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, in the same January 11th news release, declared: "The anti-choice climate in our nation’s capitol has emboldened the minority of anti-choice Americans to a point where they think they can come to our fair city and demonstrate against basic human rights."

On the CARAL site there is this exhortation: "Anti-choice extremists plan to march in San Francisco against women's health and rights on the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision establishing the constitutional right to reproductive freedom. We must show them that their anti-choice, anti-woman agenda is NOT welcome in the pro-choice city of San Francisco!"

Says Meehan: "The irony of CARAL’s battle cry is that the organizers of this event are San Franciscans. I am a fourth-generation San Franciscan. The anti-choice extremist, anti-woman slur always makes me laugh when used by organizations, like CARAL and Planned Parenthood, who only advocate for the option of abortion. I would have to argue that they are the anti-choice extremists because they will stop at nothing to prevent our pro-woman, pro-life message from reaching women. Shame on them — they have betrayed the women’s rights movement."

© 2004 Feminists for Life of America, All Rights Reserved. Women Deserve Better is a registered trademark of Feminists for Life of America.

Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children. She will be a participant in the Walk for Life West Coast.

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