Pro-life and pro-choice activists converged on Brother Bryan Park in Birmingham on Saturday for the 2017 Birmingham March for Life.
BIRMINGHAM - The Greater Birmingham National Organization for Women (NOW) organized a protest to the 2017 Birmingham March for Life Saturday at Brother Bryan Park located in the heart of Birmingham. As many as 1,000 pro-life marchers gathered at the park, and as many as 100 protestors arrived to share their pro-choice stance. Security was tight; as many as 12 officers and four dogs patrolled the park. Cullman activist and council member of the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth, Tori Partridge, traveled to Birmingham to stand with the pro-choice protestors.
Partridge says she went to the march to “end the stigma around abortion,” saying she thinks people view abortion as “just one thing.” She explained, “People have a very bleak idea of what abortion is and who receives them. I think that people need to be exposed to a broader spectrum of people who receive abortions and why people choose abortion.” Partridge says she wasn’t surprised by the turnout for the event. “A lot of people are doing what they think is right, so I’m going to do what I think is right.”
The United for Life Foundation staged the pro-life march, alongside 40 Days for Life. CEO of United for Life, Lee Bruno, of Birmingham, said, “We’ve been doing this for about 30 years; every year we come to the park and invite members of the community to come out and celebrate life.”
Bruno has connections to Cullman County—specifically Hanceville. First Source for Women is a pregnancy center for women in Hanceville, and their goal is to provide free pregnancy tests, free education and free general aid to women throughout pregnancy. The center is actively raising funds for a mobile ultrasound unit for those who can’t travel to the center; currently, there are only two mobile units in the state. One is located in Huntsville and the other is located in Mobile. The First Source mobile unit will be the first in central Alabama.
As noon approached Saturday, tensions were as high as the sun. Chants of “Plan your parenthood!” and “Her body, her choice!” erupted as the pro-life marchers began leaving the park for their route through Southside. Counter protestors gathered at the mouth of a walkway so the marchers were forced to hear the words of the pro-choice crowd. Several conversations were instantly sparked as some marchers tried to plead with protestors about changing their views. Graphic protest signs reading “Pro-Choice, Anti-Hanger” and “Never Again” (under the likeness of a bloody clothes hanger) abounded. Protesters said the signs are a reminder of a dark past, before Roe vs. Wade, when back alley abortions were commonplace, and many women died due to lack of reproductive care.
Sibylle Kristensen, of Birmingham, represented the Greater Birmingham NOW in what she called a “peaceful counter protest to promote equal access to reproductive healthcare.” She stated, “Nobody wants to see someone going through an abortion, really, it can be traumatic and it’s not something that someone would want for the fun of it.” She argues that pro-choice isn’t necessarily pro-abortion. “Equal access to reproductive care, contraceptives, is offered by Planned Parenthood. If you defund Planned Parenthood, you won’t have access to reproductive health; without available contraceptives, you will have more abortion… that is a problem. I wish that we could come to a common ground. We clearly don’t promote abortion; we would prefer that everybody have access to contraceptives.”
Kristensen says she wants to see lower abortion rates. “We could prevent so much of that by having widespread access to contraceptives and comprehensive sexual education so that the kids don’t take risks.”
At the end of the day, Partridge said she viewed the event as a success for both sides. “Pro-birth had a good turnout, but pro-choice did as well. Pro-birth (individuals) also noted that this was the first time there had been a pro-choice presence which means that we were definitely noticed.”
Partridge concluded, “It was a very peaceful day, and I believe, by us being there, that we were able to show that there are two sides; those who call it sin and wish to outlaw it, and those who, to a greater degree, understand it and support a woman’s choice to make that decision herself.”
For more information on the United for Life Foundation, visit http://www.unitedforlifefoundation.org/.
To learn more about the Greater Birmingham NOW, see http://now.org/chapter/greater-birmingham-now/.
Find the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth at http://www.aidsalabama.org/advocacy/alabama-alliance-for-healthy-youth/.
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