Thoughts On Blocking The March For Life, Getting Arrested, and Becoming A Better Advocate

     Late last Wednesday I arrived in front of the HQ office for Stop Patriarchy, a women’s rights organization with whom I’d be traveling to Washington D.C. the following morning to cover the combative efforts on the March for Life. Wielding camera and sleeping bag, the plan was to spend the night in the office with other activist members and set the tone for what would be a long and inspiring day in the nation’s capital. I encountered two women preparing some materials for the following day, white hospital pants stained with fake blood on the crotch as a symbol of one of their many mottos, “When abortion is illegal, women die.” Stop Patriarchy has organized a series of different ways to rally support for women’s rights including staging “Die Ins” where actors lay on the ground in various public domains to represent the women who have fallen at the hands of unsafe illegal abortions. It was just about freezing and hunched over on the sidewalk we stained what contributed to over 40 pairs total, which would travel with us to the Supreme Court on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The rest of the night consisted of assembling several picket signs that read “Abortion On Demand Without Apology” unapologetically across orange squares, the most widely recognized emblem of the organizations movement for women’s abortion rights. It was this sentiment that drew my interest to the group’s efforts and inspired me to join and cover the protest. For a few hours we slept huddled on the office floor, with just a few hours before our bus would depart to D.C..

      The following morning we boarded the bus before the sun rose and departed for the capital in order to assemble with what I understood to be a few other groups from around the country that were chapters of Stop Patriarchy. When I put on my socks that morning, my hands shook, in anticipation but also with anxiety. I had never been in this size of a political disagreement before, not to mention I admit I have an irrational fear of the people who wait outside of abortion clinics and music festivals holding posters of mutated sculptures and misinformation brochures on mythological dangers of a medical procedure that is actually very safe and common. I won’t call my parents liberal because I grew up only thinking they were rational. I’m absolutely horrified of uneducated people and I can truly only see people who don’t believe in scientific sexual education as just that.

     As we approached the city we rallied in the bus and I was instantly filled with inspiration from the passion of these brave women, some who were veterans of the cause since the 70s. Arriving was much like witnessing the tailgate for the Super Bowl, tons of religious organizations were arriving by the busload; including youth groups and elementary Parochial school students. This would be my first time in Washington D.C. and I found it poetic to see it in the true nature of what our country was founded on, the right to assembly and peaceful protest and freedom of speech.

     We parked, unloaded our signs, which included 5 larger than life portraits of women who have become the faces of unsafe abortions. They would be a focal point of many of my shots from that day, a bold reminder of why we assembled. We donned our shirts and pants and set off to the Supreme Court where 3 Pro-Life men were assembled, all averaging around the age of 80. They carried a faded portrait of Jesus and some wooden rosary beads; one man sang hymns as we began our chants. Eventually, the March was congregating to begin and we too took our positions at the starting line. Passion erupted as both men and women, young and old held the banner demanding abortion on demand, without apology; which was a very inspirational sight; a true picturesque representation of the diversity of this country and the solidarity on the importance of a woman’s right to access a safe abortion. I wasn’t alone as I snapped away. It seemed as though by the time we had arranged ourselves, several photographers had assembled as well. Police motorcycles met our banner, followed by what seemed to be an endless sea of religious groups, toting crosses and chanting, “We are the Pro-Life Generation”. I wasn’t alone as I snapped away. From behind the police it seemed as if the March had been confronted by these five larger than life women in black and white; so strikingly visible over the masses of people. Tensions rose and soon the motorcycles pressed against the vinyl banner, a sedan pushed through one side and suddenly we were flooded by tons of Pro-Life marchers chanting ‘Jesus’ and ‘USA’. Though anxious, I continued photographing, some of the brave women I had ridden the bus with linked arms and several minutes had passed as the March for Life was delayed. I felt hands on my shoulders and was shoved out of the way numerous times, which will make this day all the more memorable. This would be the first time I was ever aggressively handled by a police officer. One by one, eight of us were grabbed by officers, who seemed very motivated by the chants ‘USA’ around us, as if we were being labeled as Anti-American. Most ironic, the last time I heard any such patriotic chant was while bartending the USA vs. Germany World Cup game, clad in American flag paraphernalia. We were cuffed and escorted into a police van, my wrists around my backpack and camera swinging from my neck. My only fear was that my precious equipment wouldn’t survive. I seemed to be the only person with a camera who had been reprimanded and arrested despite dozens of photographers and videographers that were in the thick of the conflict. As we were shoved in the back of a van we chanted, “Every generation has an obligation to women’s liberation.” We could see a hefty police escort followed us to the jail. As I looked to my left and right and across from me, three generations were among us.

     Coming away from this experience has really given me a new perspective on many things. It took me a long time to be able to put what I was feeling into words because I wasn’t sure how I could identify something that I have to believe a lot of us feel all the time. When I was standing behind the banner I didn’t feel that I was standing against religion but misinformation and a failure to educate, something I found much more dangerous and lethal than any religious indoctrination. Yet, in recent affiliation with Stop Patriarchy, I was given a platform to stand on with many other people who are acting in solidarity for women’s rights. However, I can only say that I would like to represent the people who aren’t so sure if they belong out there. I picked up my camera and left my house on that cold Wednesday night because I was tired of the influx of internet activism, tired of feeling disenfranchised by the recent treatment of women in the media, most importantly the victims of sexual violence who are almost always misrepresented as the instigators and sexual objects that in some areas of this country culture has trained people to believe they are. I felt pride being taken into that van knowing that we were ambassadors of women. I can only hope that I can inspire the beginner’s circuit to stand up and start feeling capable of creating the change that you click the share button for. I may not be a veteran of this cause, and probably not the textbook image for activism but I challenge you to take any action that you’re able to do be it writing, speaking out, photographing, making videos, donating to a local organization that fights for the changes you want to see or protects the rights that you want to hold on to and just do something beyond sitting and scrolling for a better future. Don’t sit and think that every issue joins one side or the other. I think too many people feel that if they sit on one side of one issue that it decides how they should feel about everything else. The media wants you to believe that every pro abortion rights individual is a cop hater and every person who is pro gun rights doesn’t believe in LGBTQ rights. There is a great, untapped power in the moderates of this country and the most dangerous thing I think an individual can do is not show up on election day. I promise you, everyone, including you, will be happy you decided to show up.

To get involved check out www.stoppatriarchy.org or go to their indiegogo campaign to help us reach beyond our goal and help cover our legal fees when we return to D.C. for our hearing.

Eve Ensler's Message of Support for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and Throngs Rising in Texas

 “The near-daily laws restricting women’s right to abortion, the chorus of Republicans belittling rape and shaming women, and the whole future they are aggressively fighting for are terrifying and an attempt to push us back to the dark ages. It is a state of emergency. Forced motherhood is a form of violence.

“But we must not be paralyzed by fear or sleepwalk in denial. WE MUST RISE.

 “I am proud of throngs rising in Texas. I am proud of the women and men who will be traveling from both coasts and down the middle of the country in this summer’s Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. I urge all to follow their daring and rise with them to reclaim our lives, our bodies, our own reproductive decisions, and our futures. There is no time to waste.”

-Eve Ensler 

Eve Ensler is a Tony Award winning playwright, performer, and activist, She is the author of The Vagina Monologues, which has been translated into over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve’s activist work includes the 1 Billion Rising movement and her latest book is In the Body of the World, A Memoir.

"Stop Patriarchy has successfully moved the dialogue in the abortion debate..."


Mary Lou Singleton, licensed midwife and family nurse practitioner, and founder of Personhood for Women:

Stop Patriarchy is one of the most positive developments toward the true liberation of women to arise in decades. While prevailing neo-liberal forces sell us "feminism” as an array of consumer lifestyle and identity choices, Stop Patriarchy is telling the truth about the degradation and enslavement of women worldwide. Through their unapologetic and bold national actions, Stop Patriarchy has successfully moved the dialogue in the abortion debate away from the tepid rhetoric of choice toward the core issue: without the right to abortion, women are not free. I encourage everyone who passionately desires true liberation for the female half of the population to make a donation supporting the work of Stop Patriarchy.

You can make a one-time donation or become a monthly sustainer of Stop Patriarchy HERE!

Calling on ARTISTS - URGENT NEED for Roe42

**** ALL OF YOU CREATIVE PEOPLE ON TUMBLR Your skills are needed NOW for women’s abortion rights!!

Stop Patriarchy and others are planning dramatic actions on Jan 22 & Jan 24 for Abortion on Demand & Without Apology. We’re counter-protesting the anti-abortion fanatics in Wash DC and SF on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We aim to make it clear: This fight is about WOMEN’S LIVES. When abortion is illegal, women die.

THIS JANUARY we want to bring HUGE pictures of women who died from illegal abortion. In many protests, we have carried 11" x 17" enlargements of the pictures included here and the effect is dramatic.

But the graphics are poor quality, very “pixalated” and we can’t enlarge these files any bigger without losing the image altogether.

Can you recreate these images so they will be 6 feet tall? An artistic rendering? What’s your idea?

ALSO, help develop a concept of how these can be effectively and easily displayed. Using PVC pipe? A better idea?

We must have these graphics by Jan 19 at the latest.  Contact us today at stoppatriarchy@gmail.com if you have ideas or want to get involved.

I Will NOT Go Quietly Into The Night

From Miriam Schiff, an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider from Colorado: 

“I am a 67 year old woman who went through a horrific ‘illegal’ abortion at the age of 20.  I saw women walking in the streets demanding rights and choices.  The battles were hard won. I am angry, I am pissed off, I am appalled that the state governments are overturning abortion laws and our rights.  I am appalled that more women are not screaming and taking to the streets on a daily basis. I am afraid of the apathy. I am afraid of the demonstrations with no noise or spoken word. I am afraid of the quiet. I have decided I will tell my story, I will not 'go quietly into the night’ This is a war on women our hearts and our souls.”

We WON’T go back! Join in making history this summer, in a determined fight to END the relentless attacks on abortion!

DONATE: http://bit.ly/11KLY7z

SIGN: http://bit.ly/142UpeG

JOIN: http://bit.ly/11VuANn

Send your story to: StopPatriarchy@gmail.com

April 11: Abortion Rights Emergency Speakouts/WEBCAST April 12: Protests!

On April 11: Speakouts on the Abortion Rights Emergency were held in New York, L.A., Seattle & San Francisco. Women’s stories–before Roe v. Wade and today–were brought to life.  We honored those who risk their lives to provide abortions and we confronted the full anti-woman program driving this war on women. You can watch the entire webcast of the New York City event at www.StopPatriarchy.org including:

  • Dr. Willie Parker, award-winning doctor at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi
  • Sunsara Taylor, writer for revcom.us/Revolution newspaper, leader of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, and initiator of StopPatriarchy.org
  • Merle Hoffman, CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center, which has provided abortions and other health services to women since 1971
  • Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church
  • Marge Piercy, poet, novelist, memoirist, via video
  • Louise Bernikow, author, historian, long time activist
  • Bill Baird, reproductive rights pioneer, jailed 8 times in the 1960s for lecturing on abortion and birth control
  • David Gunn, Jr., son of first abortion doctor to be assassinated, via video message
  • And testimony from:
  • Susan Cahill, owner of the Montana abortion clinic that was destroyed and closed on March 3, 2013 about how this is an attack on all women
  • Dr. Susan Robinson, one of only four doctors in the U.S. who openly provide late-term abortions; featured in the acclaimed documentary After Tiller
  • Dr. Susan Wicklund, author of This Common Secret; My Journey As an Abortion Doctor
  • Plus:True stories of illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade

Then, on April 12, people took to the streets:

We raised bloody coat-hangers* (representing the fate of women when abortion is illegal) and shackles (representing female enslavement). We held photos of women who died from illegal abortions and doctors who were killed for providing abortions.  After an hour of silent protest, we broke the shackles and pledged to resist until we defeat and reverse these attacks and win Abortion On Demand & Without Apology and the full liberation of women.

This war on women will not go away on its own and will not be stopped by politicians or the courts. We must take responsibility for resisting and defeating these attacks – the lives of women depend on what we do.

Wire coat-hangers were used by many women as an instrument to self-abort when abortion was illegal. 5,000 women in the U.S. are estimated to have died every year from illegal, unsafe abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized abortions.


New York City:

 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

San Francisco:

(All San Francisco photos by Drake Newkirk)

This war on women will not go away on its own and will not be stopped by politicians or the courts.  We must take responsibility for resisting and defeating these attacks – the lives of women depend on what we do.

GET INVOLVED: StopPatriarchy.org

Contact: StopPatriarchy@gmail.com


Between a Rock and a Free Place

from an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider in the Midwest

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a rock. Even now, almost fifty years later, I remember the clarity of that decision.

No, I did not want to be a solid mass of mineral material, I wanted to be the kind of rock that Paul Simon sang about it in 1966. I was a brooding, alienated kid who thought the world was screwed up and adults were squares. Inside my head I screamed about the outrageous injustices and judged everyone who couldn’t read my mind and agree with me. I pulled my mattress into my too small closet and set up my cheap little record player. I lay in the dark for hours listening to the theme song of my life. “I am a rock, I am an island. I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded by my armor.” I sat in that dark little closet, no fresh air, crowded by bell-bottom pants and paisley print blouses and took comfort in the lyrics of isolation.

Of course Simon was talking about lost love. If he never loved he never would have cried. I did not get that part, or maybe I didn’t care. I was a rock because I was alone. Nobody understood me or took seriously the righteous concerns of my twelve-year-old mind. I saw a country that discriminated against blacks, treated women unfairly and made war not love. I felt condemned to be a loner who saw the horrors of oppression and the stupidity of those who went about their lives as if nothing bad was happening.

It was also Paul Simon who introduced me to the Freedom Riders.

Keep reading

Check out national & local press coverage of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, including yesterday’s rally in Jackson, MS.

Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!

Watch on stoppatriarchy.tumblr.com

Sunsara Taylor speaks at a rally for abortion rights in Fargo, on the three objectives of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, to fill a great need: putting an END to the attacks on abortion, all across the country.  Abortion Rights Freedom Riders, clinic escorts, students, lawyers, activists and others speak powerfully to the need and basis for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology, for EVERY woman in EVERY state!

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride recently left North Dakota, one of the five states that have just one abortion clinic left, after this righteous rally in downtown Fargo.  The rally was attended by staff from the Red River Women’s Clinic, the last abortion clinic in the state, as well as members from Minnesota NOW, the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders, college students and other residents from the Fargo / Grand Forks area.

Abortion rights really are in a state of emergency, and it’s going to take a movement of millions of people standing together, people like this and many more, demanding that women be treated as full human beings, not as incubators.

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is:

1. Launching a national counter-offensive against the assaults on abortion rights.

2. Changing the terms of the debate society-wide: Fetuses are NOT babies. Women are NOT incubators. Abortion is NOT murder. Forced motherhood is female enslavement.

3. Tapping into the hidden reservoir of millions who believe abortion rights are essential, and waging massive, independent action: We must rely on ourselves to turn the tide on the attacks on abortion, and fight through to defeat the whole war on women.

Read more on these three objective here:


JOIN this Freedom Ride in Wichita, KS: August 10, or Jackson, MS: August 17 for major rallies for abortion rights.  Be a virtual Freedom Rider, fighting for abortion on demand and without apology, for EVERY woman in EVERY state!





To see and hear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride in the media, go to: