Philadelphians on both sides of the abortion debate marked Friday's 43d anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a rally, a march, and a celebrated lawyer's poignant account of an illegal abortion she had decades ago.
Standing on the sidewalk across from the Academy of Music at Broad and Locust Streets, Gloria Allred spoke about how she nearly lost her life in 1966 after an illegal abortion.
A Mexican doctor had raped her at gunpoint during a stay in Acapulco, she said, and after discovering she was pregnant, she decided to terminate it.
"I didn't tell the authorities [about the rape] because I didn't think they would believe an American girl against a well-respected Mexican doctor," Allred told about 40 activists who braved the cold to show their support for her and the Roe v. Wade decision.
She returned to California and had an illegal abortion. Days later, she began hemorrhaging.
"I almost bled to death," she said.
Nevertheless, she saw her decision as the right one.
"I have no regrets about what I did," Allred said. "I know I did the right thing."
Allred, now 74, a graduate of Girls' High School and the University of Pennsylvania, said antiabortion rhetoric is part of a larger "war on women."
She was the keynote speaker in a noontime rally organized by Planned Parenthood and 12 other organizations. Activists held signs and stood on the median, urging drivers to honk in support of their cause.
The rally was convened to fight what organizers said was an attack on abortion rights by state governments in recent years.
"I really think that the assault on reproductive rights is an assault on women's rights," said Marni Snyder, a lawyer who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 182d District for the state House, which covers parts of Center City and South Philadelphia.
More than six hours earlier and on the other side of City Avenue, 150 seminarians boarded buses at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary for a long ride to Washington for the annual "March for Life" at the National Mall.
Among them was Eric Banecker, 26, a native of South Philadelphia, who is in his fourth year at the seminary. People who favor abortion, he said, avoid the "true question" of when life begins.
"I think a real scientific argument exists here," Banecker said after returning from Washington. "When the two cells come together and fertilize, there's something there that wasn't there."
A veteran of five marches, he said this year's event "was a lot quieter," perhaps because of the weather.
The temperature in Washington hovered in the 20s, and it began to snow in the early afternoon. Officials in Washington said this year's turnout was the smallest ever.