On January 21, the annual Walk for Life West Coast was held in San Francisco, California to coincide with the anniversary of the historic 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Thousands of pro-life activists gathered in Civic Center Plaza, near City Hall and marched northeast along Market Street. I arrived to ask them some challenging questions about their opinion regarding abortion. This is what they had to say. [Questions and answers were edited for brevity and clarity.]
Are you willing to support measures that will reduce or eliminate the need for abortions such as better healthcare services, access to contraception and reproductive education?
Bob: Some of that, yes. The only one probably not would be contraception. The others, I am pretty much open to. Education would probably solve that.
James CONRAD: Education is often predicated on advocating for contraception which in turn leads to fewer unwanted pregnancies and therefore, fewer abortions.
Bob: Actually, I think it’s the opposite. It actually creates a situation where there’s more sex.
George: It’s not about having more education in school, more funding in schools because if we do, schools are not going to provide that love that we need to have for LIFE. If you’re talking about health care, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop abortions, you know? Healthcare is not the only option.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of abortions in the U.S. has steadily declined since 1990. Does this indicate to you that better access to birth control will result in fewer unwanted pregnancies and therefore fewer abortions?
Bob: Even if it’s only ten babies, that’s still a lot.
Chris: In the Catholic Church, we have a birth control method that involves following the natural cycle. People will actually determine when they want to get pregnant or say if it’s not a convenient time for them.
Anonymous: No, it was because we shut down a lot of the abortion clinics! That’s what it is! The real problem is the new generation needs to be taught that sexual activity is for marriage, period! There is a natural way of[avoiding getting pregnant, but that is reserved for married people. Bottom line!
Many abortion opponents cite freedom of religion as the basis for their argument against abortion. Do you feel that should come at the expense of impoverished women who have been abandoned or have conceived as the result of being raped?
Bob: You can’t keep making excuses to have an abortion. If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. There are so many families who will take these children off their hands if they don’t want ’em.
Anonymous: Once again, you’re using religion to say that we don’t approve. We want the best for them. We want to help them out. We’re here to actually help them out, not to use that as an argument for millions of women who already aborted a kid because they use these type of arguments to feel O.K. with their conscience. Morally speaking, you don’t want to kill a child. I mean, you’re talking about their choice and their best interest. We want to help the most women. Of course. You don’t have that kind of heart? How can you defend life and the rights of someone else when you don’t really care for their child?
Chris: When it comes to the freedom of religion, everybody has their own particular choice. They can be a Christian. They can be a Hindu. They can be Buddhist. It doesn’t really matter. What matters most is that women realize that they have care and dignity, even when they’ve been abandoned by the father. They still have the opportunity to choose life.
CONRAD: But what if they don’t have the resources that make that choice of life tenable? What if they live in an area where the resources for them are scant to none?
Chris: In that case, I’d enlist various community services in the area that help with their welfare.
Many abortion opponents cite religious scripture as the basis of their argument against abortion. What are your thoughts?
Bob: As far as I understand, life is precious from conception, and that’s what I read in the Bible.
Chris: At least for myself, a lot is rooted in Scripture. We consider life to start at conception. According to the Catholic Church, life begins at conception and ends at mortal death.
Anonymous: God created us for a purpose. Morally speaking, life is the principle for everything. You see what I mean? If we don’t respect life, we don’t respect ourselves, we don’t really care for anything. If you read the Gospels Jesus said: “If anyone does wrong to the little ones, better for you to wrap a stone around your neck and go to the middle of the ocean. What we mean by that is that life is important and children are very important. Because life is given by HIM, and it’s only HIM that can take it away. It’s not for us to decide.
What do you think the penalty should be for doctors who perform abortions?
Bob: I believe it should be jail. Same as murder. I believe it’s murder.
Chris: Personally, I would revoke their license.
What do you think the penalty should be for women who seek out an abortion?
Bob: You know, if you make it less available, they’re not going to be seeking it out as much, but it’s still a crime, and they should be penalized in some way. I don’t know what to do on that.
Chris: At least for them, the first time, they should be counseled. With the first time, it should be very lenient.
CONRAD: O.K., but just supposing the abortion was precipitated through rape or in the case of medical complications with the pregnancy. Do you feel that these people should be penalized?
Chris: At least in the case of rape, I would try to counsel her as best I can.
CONRAD: You seen to be advocating a different penalty for the doctor than for the woman. Why is that?
Chris: At least when it comes to the doctor, according to the Hippocratic Oath, they are supposed to protect life at all costs.
Since in vitro fertilization clinics create and discard fertilized embryos, would you also be in favor of outlawing in vitro fertilization?
Chris: Yes. Because when it comes to conception, it’s supposed to be between a man and a woman. Doing in vitro fertilization, not having a relationship whatsoever. I prefer a natural method. Not anything like in vitro fertilization.
All photographs by James Conrad.