SAN FRANCISCO — Activists on both sides of the abortion issue marched in demonstrations across the country Saturday to mark the 32nd anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.
The anniversary came amid speculation that retirements on the Supreme Court could alter its makeup and its long-standing defense of the Roe v. Wade decision during President Bush’s second term. Chief Justice William Rehnquist is 80 and suffering from thyroid cancer.
In San Francisco, thousands of abortion opponents marched on the city’s waterfront, chanting slogans like “Women deserve better,” while abortion rights supporters tried to drown them out with their own rallying cries.
Condoms were tossed at the anti-abortion marchers, and people waved coat hangers in a reference to the days of back-alley abortions.
San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he thought it was ironic that anti-abortion activists chose the liberal West Coast city as the site for their demonstration.
“I think they want to parlay that irony,” Ammiano said. “What better place than San Francisco, not only as an act of provocation, but I think as an act of arrogance. But we know how to handle it.”
Some abortion opponents hoisted crosses over their heads or held pictures of Jesus. They said they were prepared for a confrontation.
“It’s imperative that we return any sort of agitation with a smile or just keep looking forward,” said Dolores Meehan, one of the march organizers. “You cannot stand for life if you don’t also stand for the life of the person who’s not always being that nice to you. So this is a golden opportunity.”
Police said two people were arrested for assaulting officers, though no injuries were reported.
Elsewhere, abortion opponents marched on state capitols in Colorado, South Carolina and Texas.
Abortion opponents carried American flags and signs reading “Parental Rights” and “Choose Life” in Austin, Texas, where Republican Gov. Rick Perry pledged support for a bill requiring a minor to get her parents’ consent for an abortion.
“Abortion needs to be brought in line with nearly every other medical procedure performed on minors, and that includes parental consent,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.
Sarah Wheat, spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said her group opposes a parental-consent law because it would not have a huge impact on the abortion rate.
“For us, it looks like a lot of time and energy that is not going to have that big of an impact, positive or negative,” she said.
In Los Angeles, Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony was expected to lead an annual “Respect Life Mass” Saturday featuring the lighting of 157 candles to signify the number of abortions being performed a day in the city.
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