A march for some—but not all—women
Abortion | Some pro-life women took to the streets of Washington Saturday, but they were not welcome
by Laura Finch
Posted 1/21/17, 06:33 pm
WASHINGTON—Participants in Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington showed their excitement long before they arrived at the National Mall, where frequent and spontaneous cheering broke out on crowded Metro platforms and the smell of patchouli hung in the air.
But the sharing of that excitement was limited to women who agreed that abortion is a sacred right. And despite the fact that the event’s official Twitter account announced yesterday, “ALL ARE WELCOME TO MARCH ON JANUARY 21!” pro-life women who showed up at today’s march and rally weren’t shown much courtesy.
“It’s been made clear that a pro-life presence is not welcome,” said Michele Hendrickson, eastern regional director of Students for Life of America, a pro-life organization for high school, college, and graduate students.
Homemade signs promoting abortion and opposing conservative Christian values were plentiful, and often vulgar. “I didn’t come from your rib—you came from my vagina,” read one. “Abort Mike Pence,” read another. Not all marchers were obsessed with abortion rights; some displayed messages like “End mass incarceration” or “I love my mom,” while many others had signs showing their displeasure with newly inaugurated President Donald Trump.
After an article published by The Atlantic earlier this week noted that two pro-life groups appeared on the list of Women’s March sponsors, march organizers quickly removed any references to the groups from their website, saying the organizations had been listed in error.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of New Wave Feminists, one of the removed pro-life sponsors, said her group would still show up—to support the march, not to protest.
“It bothers me that pro-life people are going to be protesting a women’s march,” she said, citing the expected presence of Created Equal—a pro-life group known for using graphic imagery to get their point across.
Herndon-De La Rosa said yesterday that her group wasn’t fearful about their safety: “We do not anticipate violence tomorrow. Of course not.”
Other pro-life feminists, however, refused to attend the march.
“The stated goal of this Women’s March is to protest the new administration and to support abortion,” Feminists for Life of America president Serrin Foster said in a statement. “Feminists for Life will not be participating in the Women’s March as we are nonpartisan—as well as nonsectarian—and do not support abortion.”
One woman at today’s march carrying a sign that read, “Intersectional feminism,” thought hard when asked if there was room in the feminist movement for pro-life women. “It’s not really a structured umbrella,” she said.
Abby Johnson, founder of And Then There Were None, an organization that helps abortion workers leave the abortion business, said she brought only one staff member with her to the march because of threats she had received on Twitter. She said her pro-life signs had received only a couple of overtly hostile comments during the day, adding that they had been met with a lot of support—or confusion.
“I think a lot of women here would identify as pro-life, but the Women’s March has essentially silenced them,” Johnson said. “And they’re here for other issues.”
The marchers walking past Students for Life’s anti-abortion banner were anything but silent.
“My body, my choice,” marchers chanted when they saw the banner and signs.
Students for Life chapter leaders from Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., said some marchers had stopped to thank them, but others had ripped banners and signs from their hands. Others from Students for Life reported they were pushed and spat upon, but no one was physically harmed.
Some media outlets estimated that attendance for the Women’s March on Washington surpassed Friday’s inauguration ceremonies, based on aerial photos. The Associated Press reported that city officials estimated that 500,000 attended the rally, with more than 1 million attending marches around the world.
Laura is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's mid-career course.