This weekend, pro-choice activists will stage their answer to last month's "March for Life": The "Walk for Choice," an international stroll in support of abortion rights for women. The walk is inspired by recent U.S. legislation that would defund reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood, restrict health insurance coverage of abortion, and block the District of Columbia from using taxpayer funds to provide abortions to low-income women.
So far, over 500 participants have agreed to attend the District walk, where protesters will wave signs, don orange, and recruit "speakers" to further the message "we have a voice, we have a choice." What participants don't plan to do is "march." Though abortion rights supporters from Anchorage to Pakistan will assemble in dozens of locations around the world at noon this Saturday, organizers have been careful to make the demonstrations appear ad hoc:
"Because Walk for Choice was created only two weeks ago, most of the events don’t have the permits required to 'march,'" organizers wrote on the walk's Tumblr. "A march implies that a large group of people will be walking from point A to point B. This is exactly what we’re trying to avoid. If you do not have a parade permit—and most of you won’t—you can’t block any streets or sidewalks." Instead, organizers are urging participating cities to stage a "walk around/through the central downtown area of each city, speaking to pedestrians and inviting them to walk with you for a while as you talk."
Despite the walkers' best efforts, the effort has been sufficiently organized enough to sprout several counter-protests. Anti-abortion group Pro-Life Texas is spearheading opposition to the walk across Texas and "any other city in which the protest will be held"; so far, counter-protests are confirmed in Dallas, Boston, Santa Fe, and D.C. Counter-walkers are preparing to clash with the abortion rights activists by wearing red and selling their own motto: "They have no voice, they have no choice." The variation on the Walk for Choice theme is meant to "redirect attention to the child in the womb that is destroyed during an abortion procedure."
The opposition has already succeeded in stirring the voices of walk-for-choicers, who have taken to Pro-Life Texas' comments section to challenge the organization's facts and accuse its messaging of misogynistic undertones. Walk leaders are encouraging participants to ignore the theme hijack. "Counter protesters are just there to bug you," District organizers wrote in a message to participants. "Don't let them. We are a peaceful people. They will taunt and tease but please ignore. Holding up a peace sign or waving your signs at them in a peaceful manner is an acceptable way of combating them."
Organizers hope the walk's "grassroots" style will help the demonstration skirt the radar of both permit sticklers and anti-abortion agitators: In order to deprive opponents of precious organizing time, details of the walk route will remain private until 24 hours before the walk's start.