McALLEN — The corner occupied by the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic was flooded by pro-life marchers early yesterday morning.
By 10 a.m., the abortion clinic’s property became a symbolic battleground between the Catholic group and pro-abortion rights supporters.
The anti-abortion march has been orchestrated by the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville for the past four years in opposition of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure in January 1973.
The group traditionally marches down Main Street, stopping at the clinic to pray and ending at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The event is also held ahead of the “40 Days for Life” campaign, which is meant to draw people away from supporting the procedure.
For the last three years, pro-abortion rights organization South Texans for Reproductive Justice has rallied outside of Whole Woman’s Health Clinic to counter the marchers.
Both groups garnered more members this year than ever before. More than 200 anti-abortion attendees were packed into the corners of West Houston Avenue and South Main Street. Some kneeled or stood at a makeshift altar, feet away from the clinic’s entrance.
Pro-abortion rights advocates trickled into the area as the morning went on. After more than 150 supporters arrived, they began chanting and working their way to the front of the clinic as well, where they remained after the marchers left to Sacred Heart.
A small faction of the anti-abortion group stayed behind to pray across the street, McAllen resident Sandra De La Tejera among them. She said that she is not protesting anything, but is instead praying for women to make the right choice.
“What I would like is for people to realize that this is not a fight. We don’t need to scream at each other,” she said. “We just need to look inside ourselves and feel ‘Is this the right thing for the baby?’ I think this debate is about life.”
This marked De La Tejera’s third straight year of marching, but she often stands outside the clinic to discourage patients from going through with the procedure.
Rebecca Arjona, a member of South Texans for Reproductive Justice, is a volunteer escort at the clinic who was present at the event. She helped coordinate the rally and guided patients into the clinic throughout the day.
“This year our goal was to raise our numbers … so we could surround the clinic and take up the side that (anti-abortion marchers) usually do and not even give them the chance to stick around, which worked because they really didn’t stay very long,” she said.
Mimosa Thomas, who also stood with the pro-abortion rights group, was adamant about defending the clinic and women’s reproductive rights.
“This Whole Woman’s Health isn’t going anywhere,” she said. “We wanted to send the (anti-abortion supporters) the message that we’re here to stay, and we will defend this clinic.”
Whole Woman’s Health was shut down in March 2014 after state legislators passed House Bill 2, which tightened abortion restrictions. It reopened in September 2014 after a federal judge struck down parts of the bill.
The pro-abortion group handed out condoms, buttons, flyers and pens to guests after the marchers moved on and the rally was done.
De La Tejera looked on to the cluster of largely college-aged pro-abortion rights attendants between her silent prayers.
“It’s sad to see so many young people stating it’s a choice — and it is,” she said. “It is absolutely ultimately your choice, but killing shouldn’t be anybody’s choice.”