woman.jpgSeveral thousand anti-abortion activists marched in San Francisco this afternoon while hundreds more rallied for reproductive rights on the eve of the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision granting women the right to end a pregnancy.

The day of abortion-related activism started in Justin Herman Plaza with the West Coast Rally for Reproductive Justice at 11 a.m. and continued with an anti-abortion rally around noon and “Walk for Life” at about 1:30 p.m.

More than 200 people attended the first rally on the Embarcadero this morning organized by a coalition of pro-choice groups, including the National Organization for Women’s California chapter, World Can’t Wait and the Silver Ribbon Campaign.

Speakers included representatives from these groups and other pro-choice activists, including Supervisor David Chiu and state Assemblyman Mark Leno.

“We stand here as men in solidarity with this pro-choice movement,” said Chiu, speaking for himself and Leno.

Chiu touted a measure he and his fellow supervisors approved last fall that moves the city toward a law banning crisis pregnancy centers from misleading women into believing they offer abortion services when they actually provide anti-abortion counseling.

“I am so proud to represent a city that…has been at the forefront of fighting for civil liberties,” he told the crowd.

But Chiu and other speakers also highlighted the barriers that still prevent women throughout the country from accessing birth control and abortion services.

Dr. Sophia Yen, a San Francisco pediatrician who co-founded the Silver Ribbon Campaign–described on the group’s website as “an online mass mobilization for women’s lives and women’s rights”–addressed some of those obstacles at today’s rally.

She spoke about the Obama administration’s recent decision to restrict girls’ access to emergency contraception and a U.S. House of Representatives vote last fall approving a measure that would allow doctors to deny women life-saving abortions.

“Stop slapping the medical community in the face with your decisions,” Yen said, earning a round of applause from rally attendees.

Around the same time, a much larger crowd of more than 10,000 people flooded the Civic Center, many clutching signs and banners with slogans such as “Abortion Hurts Women” and “Defend Life”.

Attendees at the anti-abortion rally heard multiple speakers, including Rev. Clenard Childress, who told the crowd that “abortion is evil” and that they were speaking for those whose voices had been silenced by the procedure.

Childress said there is a need for a law establishing “personhood”, a definition of life that begins at conception.

“Personhood is crucial–it is the basis why this nation was born, because everybody deserves the right to life,” he said, earning a applause and cheers. “Keep walking, keep praying, keep lifting your voices up in the public square–we will prevail.”

With that, the several thousand attendees started heading toward Market Street from the Civic Center, led by a police motorcade.

The throng of marchers included many school and church groups, such as the roughly 200 youth group members from John the Baptist Catholic Church in Milpitas.

One of the youth group marchers, Milpitas resident Ruben Cardenas, 20, said today’s event holds special meaning for him, since doctors advised his mother to abort him due to a pre-existing medical condition.

“She proved the doctors wrong and that anything can happen,” he said. “There are different options…there is an opportunity for someone to live and make a difference.”

Laura Dixon, Bay City News

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