I grew up in the 1960s in California, so you might expect that I had participated in dozens of protests and marches in support of or against a variety of issues and events – wasn’t that part of the era? Actually, no. In the politically liberal-leaning crowd I ran with as a student, there was no surer conversation-stopper than mention of my uniformed brother serving in Vietnam. I kept a low profile. My idealism might have inflamed my activism, but the fear of peer ostracism kept me silent.
The first and only cause I have ever supported with my feet is the annual Step Out for Choice march in Los Altos, sponsored by the local branch of the American Association of University Women. This year the event marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
I am not pro-abortion. Abortion is a bad choice, one that no one should have to make. But sometimes all the available choices are bad, and this most personal choice should be made with consideration between a woman and her doctor, not legislated by government. In China, abortions are mandated; in the U.S., there are those who would forbid them. Either extreme is equally tyrannical.
Nearly 100 men, women and children met at the Los Altos Youth Center to mark the anniversary. The program started with a songfest led by the Raging Grannies from Planned Parenthood, and continued with presentations by two women physicians who discussed reproductive choice as a basic requirement for women’s health care. Organizers then distributed signs, several groups of women unfurled banners, and we walked together across San Antonio Road, up State Street, across First Street and down Main Street.
There were many people sitting at sidewalk cafes or on the benches along our route. Some of them applauded as we went by; some gave us a thumbs-up; some looked away, embarrassed. Shop owners came to the door to see what the march was about. We got some supportive honks from passing cars, and a few catcalls.
As I walked, I felt happy and proud to be able to express my feelings with my feet, without fear of retribution later. I feel sure that the photographers who took pictures of our march from the sidelines were from local news organizations, not from the FBI. I knew that many who watched our march did not agree with what our signs said, but I had no fear that someone might pull out a club and strike me down.
The sun poured down on us after a week of bone-chilling cold. I was walking between a white-coated doctor and her 5-year-old daughter. It was a beautiful day in Los Altos.
Allyson Johnson is a Los Altos resident. To comment or for more information, visit her website at www.allysonjohnson.com.