Friday, January 21, 2005

Not A Walk In The Park

(Note: This post critiques anti-abortion religious activists in a political context, please stop reading if you are sensitive to these topics. They say the three things you shouldn't discuss in a bar are politics, religion and work. Well this ain't a bar, it's a blog. May free speech reign.)

It won't be a walk in the park for demonstrators being bussed in from all over California Saturday January 22nd, not even in a city that boasts beautiful Golden Gate Park, with its lakes, broad meadows and botanical garden.

For anti-abortion advocates Saturday was billed as a Walk For Life, taking their anti-choice message directly to the center of its greatest opposition. But it wasn't hardcore Operation Rescue operatives marching on the front lines of Saturday's event, but rather Catholic bishops, priests, nuns and laypeople from the City and abroad. San Francisco's own archbishop, William J Levada (whose webpage proclaims "brothers and sisters together"), made headlines for leading a march against same-sex marriages when Mayor Gavin Newsom began sanctioning them in February 2004. So much for the separation of church and state.

Never mind the absurdity of the Catholic hierarchy issuing stern edicts and admonitions to those mostly outside their religion, but the march also represents a major shift from the days when Catholic priests lead the sanctuary movement while the US government waged bloody proxy wars in Latin American throughout the 1970s and 80s. Lets not forget the fact that many Catholic officials in the Bay Area have poorly addressed the priest abuse scandal, and like their Boston counterparts attempted to block litigation against errant clergy. The Catholic bishops have turned their attention instead to bussing in the faithful to rid the Barbary Coast of its evils.

Speaking as someone raised, educated and deeply ritualized in the church (indeed I was the proverbial alter boy and sang in the choir on occasion), it troubles me that those who should be the most humble and contrite representatives of their faith are instead charging forward covered in their cassocks of self-righteousness. This march and its indignation belies what I belive are the clergy's real motives, to methodically errode and remove the option of abortion entirely, and thus reinforce the patriarchy of their institution. However, weak is a religious institution that can't accommodate the free thoughts and choices of women, Catholic or non. This is men behaving badly, again. But it's not just men, really.

I can't ignore the fact that the San Francisco march was organized by two women, who claim to just want to get the message out that there are other "options" for women than abortion. Fair enough, give women the benefit of all options, including improved health care and birth control access, give them the option of equal pay, equal workplace promotion, better funding for their sports programs--choosing to bring a life in to this world should include a contract for all these options as well. Instead tokenism is the common substitute. Take your money for instance. Save "rare" coins like the Susan B Anthony and Sacajawea coin dollars, women just aren't on your money. If women were on our money, they'd be on our minds ALL the time.

I hope we march forward from here, not backward into the dark ages. Mother nature may have other plans for us though.