By Andrew Tan
Nearly 100 people gathered on the corners of the intersection between El Camino Real and Embarcadero Road on Tuesday afternoon –– on the National Day of Action to Stop Abortion Bans –– to join a nationwide movement protesting legislation that has made abortions increasingly inaccessible in states like Alabama and Missouri.
The rally was led by the Palo Alto Raging Grannies Action League, an organization of older women seeking to bring about social justice through “street theater, humor, satire and props,” according to the group’s mission statement. The Palo Alto Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom co-sponsored the event and helped rally participants for the protest.
Students from Palo Alto High School and Stanford were also present.
The Grannies’ Palo Alto protest was one of over 400 rallies held across the country in response to strict abortion laws passed in several states, including Alabama, which last week enacted the nation’s strictest abortion law that makes performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions.
Meanwhile, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi have passed laws that prohibit abortion about six weeks into a pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat is detected, and governors in Missouri and Louisiana say they intend to follow suit.
The majority of protesters assembled on the corner in front of Town and Country Village and wore vibrant hats and scarves to draw the attention of passersby. The Grannies also brought extra accessories and sign-making supplies for latecomers or pedestrians who sought to spontaneously join the rally.
“Because we dress with our hats with all our buttons and everything, we attract attention and it seems to promote whatever cause we’re behind,” said Denley Rafferty, a 15-year member of the Raging Grannies.
The lunch rush between noon and 1 p.m. brought heavy traffic to the intersection and great exposure to the protest. As protesters synchronized in song and rhyme, passing vehicles honked from every direction to express support for the anti-abortion bans cause.
Amid intermittent showers and the deafening roar of sympathetic car horns, grannies, students and passersby alike brandished signs reading “Keep Your Theology Off My Biology,” “Avoid Unwanted Presidencies” and “Pro-Choice: The Radical Idea that Women are People.”
Raging Grannies spokesperson Ruth Robertson led the crowd in chants and songs that emphasized the importance of women’s rights and provided striking imagery of women’s struggles.
One song, to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” went: “No more dying in back alleys! We’ll keep marching in these rallies. Until all women everywhere are free to have a choice. We march for women’s lives.”
Robertson also took time between songs to proselytize to the crowd.
“We shouldn’t have to be doing this, but we’re gonna keep fighting until Roe v. Wade is unimpeachable.”
The rally proceeded through the afternoon relatively unencumbered, but security presence on the Town and Country corner was positioned to ensure that none of the protesting occurred on Town and Country property. On the off occasion in which a protester would sit or stand on the small stone wall in front of the shopping center, a security guard would come over to urge him or her to move back onto the sidewalk.
Though the rally was regarded as an overall success for the Grannies and other participants, they assured The Daily that the fight for women’s rights is just beginning. Rafferty insisted that, “Grassroots movements like [the Raging Grannies]” will be instrumental in stemming the tide of anti-abortion legislation and should continue on year-round to keep the issue under national scrutiny.
Contact Andrew Tan at tandrew ‘at’ stanford.edu.
Correction: this article has been updated to reflect that the Palo Alto Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom co-sponsored the rally.