Crowds from both sides of the abortion rights debate met and exchanged words (and an elbow or two) outside the Family Planning Clinic on N. Westmoreland in Los Angeles on Saturday. Pro-Choicers made a line around the entrance, creating what organizer, Katie, called a “safe zone” for would-be patients at the clinic.
Pro-life activists stood and sang or knelt and prayed across the sidewalk and down the street, sometimes outnumbering the Pro-Choice contingent by 2 to 1.
“The goal is to protect the clinic,” one Pro-Choice volunteer said, “we’re trying to keep it open, and the other side is trying to shut it down.” They’re trying to shut it down, she explained, by physically blocking the entrance to the building or meeting women at their cars and trying to deter them from going into the building.
The conflict comes from a new push by a group called 40 Days For Life Los Angeles (FDFL), who are a religious group that has called for a presence at family planning clinics around the country. They have been met in Los Angeles by Pro-Choice activists, and both sides of the conflict admit it hasn’t been easy. One Pro-Choice activist told me a story that although they’ve been able to help escort many young women into the clinic without much trouble, there has been at least one young woman who went away in tears after being confronted by Pro-Life protesters.
“We’re out here to pray,” FDFL organizer Jonathan Anthony said. “We’re here to pray for these people; for those people who work at abortion clinics; to pray for everybody.”
Several Pro-Choice activists claim to have witnessed the FDFL group “accosting” young women going into the clinic, but Anthony counters that the group is there to offer counseling, not hate. When asked if one of the FDFL goals was to intimidate people in order to keep them from going into the clinic, he first said “a little bit, yes.” After a moment, he revised himself: “no, I don’t want to say it that way…Everybody wants to do good. We are trying to be the light in their lives; their hope in their lives.”
He continued: “sometimes it looks like we are there to make them hurt or something, but they have to give thought to this decision.”
Things turned physical at one point during the day when both a Pro-Choice and a Pro-Life activist were talking to the same young potential patient. The Pro-Choice activist accused the Pro-Life activist of assaulting her by using his elbow to violently push her out of the way. The altercation was brought to the attention of the police on the scene, and assault charges were filed against the man.
This coming Saturday, the 40 Days For Life group will be marching from a church near MacArthur Park to the clinic at 601 N. Westmoreland to protest the clinic again. Organizers of the Pro-Choice movement are asking that people who wish to help bring signs and water, and show up as early as 8:00am to confront the march at around 10:00am. The vigil will likely last into the afternoon.
LOCATION: 601 N. Westmoreland Ave, Los Angeles, 90004 DATE: Saturday, October 10th, starting at 8:00am until end
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