A Time for New Beginnings: Taking on the Christian Fascists in Houston

By Jamilah Hoffman    

               

On January 18th, a group of anti-abortion religious fundamentalists came to Houston to protest at a new Planned Parenthood facility. These people call Planned Parenthood’s new Houston location an “abortion super center” because of its 78,000 square feet, and they call the location of the building itself racist because it is situated near Black and Chicano neighborhoods.
 
They claim that Planned Parenthood chose this location to target neighborhoods of the oppressed for abortions. Their agenda is to enslave women. Those of us who support a woman’s right to choose, who stand in opposition to the oppression of women, came out in support of abortion rights and Planned Parenthood.
 
news coverage from KIAH, Houston
 
Walking to the protest, and seeing the hundreds of anti-abortion protesters already in place, tape over their mouths with the word “Life” written on it and with reports of hundreds of more in place, set to march to Planned Parenthood, reinforced for some of us that things have sharpened politically, and that there is a need for a new movement that will take on the religious right, and put up a strong pole of resistance that can attract many more people to it.
 
About 1,500 people came out against abortion, bussed in by church groups throughout the area. They were countered by about 50 of us, who ranged from the Student Feminists Organization at the University of Houston to Revolutionary Communists, Anarchists, and the general public. Before we arrived at the location we knew that we would be outnumbered. Local media had given plenty of positive air time to Lou Engle, and his group, The Call to Conscience, which had called for the protest against Planned Parenthood.
 
While I am not pleased with the lack of people we were able to mobilize, neither am I discouraged. I think what happened in Houston reflects what is actually going on broadly in society. Bob Avakian talks about this pyramid dynamic and how right-wing politicians mobilize their social base, to a certain extent, to promote their agenda because that agenda is about the continuation of oppression and exploitation and it benefits them, while the Democratic Party is reluctant to do the same with their social base because they don’t want things to go too far to the left where they can lose control. And many people who oppose the atrocities and attacks upon the people feel paralyzed.
 
Avakian also speaks to the ability of the people to change this situation, through determined actions, and through countering the ideological offensive and confusion of the right wing. Over the past couple of months some of this has begun to develop, even if in still a very beginning way, in Houston, as courageous women at the University of Houston have stood up to expose and oppose the fascist woman haters who seek to outlaw a woman’s right to choose completely.
 
 
It was quite clear from the beginning that any counter protest that we held was going to be challenged by the State in the form of the police. The police had a heavy presence, and set up barricades in the middle of the street to keep the two sides apart. Actually, they were trying to keep us “protest pinned”. They were focused entirely on the pro-choice side. The second we held up our signs, the cops wanted to know “who was in charge”, and asked us, “Don’t you want to move? It would be better for your signs to be seen?” Meanwhile, they tried to keep our message from being seen and heard.
 
It looks like Houston, and this new Planned Parenthood facility, is becoming a focal point in the battle around abortion rights. What is painfully clear is that having leaders in the women’s movement, who tell us to lobby and vote for pro-choice candidates, and who then turn around and vote for legislation that strip away the right to abortion, demobilizes and demoralizes people. But it is also clear that there is a growing number of young women – and men – who are determined to make this a two sided fight.
 
We need a new movement that is willing to take on the religious right, that isn’t afraid to take a bold stand, and which realizes that you don’t seek common ground with those who would want to kill you, but instead, you resist.