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Protesters, Counterprotesters Face Off at San Francisco 'Walk for Life' Rally

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Activists on both sides of the abortion debate demonstrated at the 18th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in downtown San Francisco Saturday afternoon.

The Walk for Life event began at 12:30 p.m. with thousands of people at a rally at Civic Center Plaza. Scheduled speakers included anti-abortion activist Irene Zamorano-Archacki and Mark Mary, a priest with EWTV, the Catholic TV network. The anti-abortion event was held on the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973 decision making abortion legal nationwide.

Walk for Life marchers have arrived in San Francisco by the busload for the event for years. This year, both sides are awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling on a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The court's decision in Roe v. Wade forbade states to ban abortion before a fetus becomes viable, or roughly 22 weeks.

Walk for Life Demonstration
The Walk for Life West Coast antiabortion event took place Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022 at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza. (Rachel Podlishevsky / ProBonoPhoto)

Both sides are anticipating the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. In December, the court's six conservative justices signaled that they were inclined to uphold the Mississippi law.

The Walk for Life's mission is "to change the perceptions of a society that thinks abortion is an answer. Abortion does violence to women and to their children, both physically and emotionally. We deserve better than abortion," according to the Walk for Life website.

During the Walk for Life event, about 100 counterdemonstrators organized by the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice--SF gathered in a circle at McAllister and Polk streets on the edge of Civic Center Plaza, chanting and holding sign with slogans including, "My body, my choice."

"We like to talk about reproductive justice, because it's not just about abortion, but womens' right to choose when they get pregnant - stopping forced sterilization," said counterdemonstrator Ruth Robertson, a member of the Grannies Action League, a group of older women promoting social and economic equity.

"Our goal was to have a strong visual presence," Robertson said.

After the rally, Walk for Life participants holding signs with slogans including "Abortion Hurts Women" walked along Market Street to Embarcadero Plaza.

In a separate action, Gov. Gavin Newsom held a virtual rally at 11 a.m. commemorating the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

"...Limiting access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is a fundamental violation of individual liberty and freedom. The simple fact remains - America can't achieve true equality if women do not have control over their own bodies," Gov. Newsom said in a statement.

Susan Nutt, a spokeswoman for Walk for Life, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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