ublished Aug 6, 2010 11:00 AM
Pro-choice activists successfully defended the Family Reproductive Health clinic for a week in July in Charlotte, N.C. The facility, which provides a wide range of medical care for women, including check-ups, testing and treatment, family planning and abortions, has been under siege for eight years by the right-wing Operation Rescue/Operation Save America.
OR/OAS not only opposes women’s reproductive rights but rails against lesbian/gay/bi/transgender individuals and people living with AIDS. Their bigotry has extended to protests outside of mosques where they harass Muslims.
On July 24 the strength of pro-choice activists caused the right-wingers to pack up their bus and leave. The National Organization for Women, which helped to organize the clinic defense, reports that this was the first Saturday in eight years when the clinic was “free of harassment and terror threats from the extreme anti-abortion rights group OR/OSA.” (now.org)
Following is an eyewitness report written by Cathey Stanley and Scott Williams, activists with Raleigh Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), who traveled to Charlotte to defend the clinic and women’s reproductive rights on July 24.
“Trust women,” “Keep abortion safe and legal,” and “This clinic stays open” were among the signs we saw bordering the entrance of the Family Reproductive Health clinic on July 24. The facility is one of many in Charlotte that have been under attack.
Operation Rescue/Operation Save America had targeted Family Reproductive Health for attacks from July 17-24 and culminated its weeklong convention in Charlotte on July 24. For the entire week, these right-wingers, who aim to end abortion rights for women across the United States, harassed clinic staff and the women who depend on that facility.
In anticipation of their arrival, 80 advocates for women’s reproductive rights gathered in solidarity at Family Reproductive Health on July 24 to support the patients and clinic workers.
Members of groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women, Raleigh FIST and University of North Carolina-Charlotte Students for a Democratic Society, were there. Many of the groups also helped defend the clinic throughout the week.
Reporting from Charlotte, Cathey Stanley said she traveled to support this clinic because “Women’s reproductive rights are an indication of where we stand in society. The right to choose indicates that we are adults who are fully capable of making decisions about our bodies and lives. Taking that choice away suggests that we are like children, incapable of making such decisions about what is best for our own lives. Taking away reproductive rights takes away our autonomy as fully functional human beings.”
Mary Johnson, who lives in Charlotte, explained to these reporters that she was there because “I had a friend who didn’t believe in abortion and she had one. I’m out here so that every woman has the right to choose like her. For her, the baby wouldn’t live after birth, so I thought that it was important that she should have the right to choose. So now I’m here to defend every woman’s right to an abortion. In the past few decades, North Carolina went from having some of the most pro-woman abortion laws to limiting abortion services for women, especially minors.”
These reporters also spoke to Francisco Chavez from Mexico, who is a member of UNC-Charlotte SDS and Feminist Union at UNCC. He expressed his solidarity with women activists and said, “We need total equality through awareness, education and action with men and women. In a men-dominated society, women’s issues are connected to all issues of oppression. It’s very scary that people are so against reproductive rights. These people are attacking women seeking medical services and only contributing to the oppression of women.”
We saw that morale was high among clinic supporters as a steady crowd of people remained at Family Reproductive Health from early morning to late afternoon. We noted that although pro-choice activists had signed agreements of “non-engagement” and “non-violence,” they were ready to stand their ground if there was opposition from the right-wingers. Although we saw a few individuals walk through the pro-choice crowd or stand on the sidewalk opposite the clinic holding signs or spewing anti-choice rhetoric, the women’s rights activists far outnumbered them.
As they defended the clinic with their bodies and their signs, the pro-choice advocates spoke with one another, made contacts for future events and shared their own stories of how they came to fight for reproductive justice. The pro-choice protest at Family Reproductive Health was a successful event that fostered an environment of solidarity and continued action to promote women’s reproductive rights.
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