In observance of the Roe v. Wade decision’s 46th anniversary, two groups of protesters braved the snow Tuesday morning to march on the capitol.
The Archdiocese of Madison, which organized the March for Life Wisconsin, fell short of their 300 person attendance goal, which spokesperson Brent King blamed on the weather. In addition to protesting abortion, King said the marchers wanted to bring attention to the “staggering costs of adoption” and encouraged the state legislature to enact a tax credit for families who adopt. Senator André Jacques, R-DePere, joined the marchers and voiced his support for the adoption credit plan.
“Anything to help make [adoption] more accessible to families in Wisconsin, we’re very much in favor of,” King said.
A smaller group of pro-choice protestors, organized by Madison Abortion Defense, countered the group with their own chants. Despite drawing a crowd of about 15, Madison Abortion Defense spokesperson Dayna Long said the small turnout was not discouraging.
“The view that abortion should remain legal is actually widely held. That’s the popular and prominent view. However, pro-choice forces don’t mobilize as frequently as pro-lifers do,” she said. “It looks like they have a majority … or they have some kind of moral authority in the state of Wisconsin. Well, they don’t.”
As for the March for Life’s push for increased accessibility for adoption, Long said that message did not come across very strongly.
“That may be what they’re there to lobby for, but they don’t carry signs saying adoption. They carry signs about outlawing abortion,” she said. “Whatever they’re talking about in the privacy of lawmakers’ offices, that’s not the presence that they have outside. Their presence outside is definitely anti-abortion.”
Tuesday’s event marked the first Roe v. Wade anniversary since new Democratic Gov. Tony Evers took office. Evers strongly supported abortion rights in his campaign and named Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s CEO as a healthcare advisor. But with a Republican majority in both houses of the state legislature, neither side seems to anticipate any change in abortion laws. Long said she expects Evers to block “anti-choice agenda” Republicans propose.
King expressed a similar belief that Evers would veto any anti-abortion legislation but hoped for developments on other fronts.
“I guess I expect … a good amount of gridlock,” he said. “Hopefully we have some ways to make some good progress when it comes to things like adoption … things I think we can all agree on.”
Overshadowing the event was the national controversy that broke out as a result of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, where a standoff between a Native American activist and a group of Kentucky high schoolers sparked debate over the nature of the incident.
In response, the local pro-choice protesters started the day by acknowledging they were organizing on land stolen from Native Americans and talked about the Catholic Church’s role in historic oppression of Native Americans.
Long said one attendee of the March for Life wore a coat depicting Chief Illiniwek, the former mascot of the University of Illinois, which was retired in 2007 after being deemed offensive by the NCAA.
“There are people who are saying those boys don’t represent the March for Life, that’s not what this is about,” she said. “It’s pretty telling that somebody wore that coat to the March for Life even after what happened in Washington, D.C.”
King said the events in Washington did not change their approach and expressed doubt about the nature of the standoff.
“I don’t think it’s affected our message, especially given the initial misinformation that was put out there,” he said. “It was portrayed as one thing; when people look into it more fully, they see that it’s not what it was originally portrayed as.”