On Saturday morning, I heard chants of "Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé" outside my apartment and wondered what European sports victory had just occurred...
...but the singing turned out to be "pro-life" marchers making their way to Civic Center Plaza before continuing downtown on Market Street.
The march, with people arriving in buses from as far as the Midwest, has become an annual commemoration of the Roe v. Wade decision by those opposed to legalized abortion. The choice of San Francisco for this huge demonstration seems to be an intentional poke in the eye at the fabled Sodom and Gomorrah of the West.
Seeing the young crowd march by felt like watching a real-life prequel to Margaret Atwood's chilling 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale, which takes place in a near-future North America after Christian fundamentalists have taken over.
The great sci-fi writer Samuel R. Delany recently posted a memory on his Facebook page remembering those recent times before Roe v. Wade, and it's worth reprinting:
My novel DARK REFLECTIONS will be returned to print by Dover Books later this year. The middle section, "Vashti in the Dark," is, among other things, a horror story of what could happen to young women conflicted over getting an abortion as little as six months before this decision went on the books. (And for quite a while afterward, as things only improved slowly.) The story was based on events I'd observed in a New York mental hospital back in 1964, and several others which I saw afterward. When my own wife in 1961 had a perfectly legitimate miscarriage, she was treated like a criminal at the hospital, and pain relievers were withheld (so she wouldn't "choose" to do it again, just in *case* she had broken the existing law), because the assumption at the time was that any woman, married or unmarried, who came in after a miscarriage, had just left an illegal abortionist (because that's all there were) who had started the process and sent her to the emergency room to avail herself of the relatively sterile conditions there for the D&C (dilation and curettage) needed to finish up the process safely. It was painful, humiliating, and cruel--and a huge factor in what poor women were trying to avoid during those times, either by having unwanted babies they couldn't afford materially or emotionally, or by not having them, or being treated as criminals if they were unlucky enough to miscarry. (We wanted our baby, both of us.) Having seen women friends that I knew and loved go through this, until I was thirty, *I* don't want to go through it again and I damned well don't want my friends and acquaintances and their friends and families to. Anyone who's seen its devastating effects has to be a moral imbecile to condone it.