While a brisk wind filtered through Moscow, Students for Life and Crusade for Life advocates huddled close and marched down Moscow’s Main Street Saturday afternoon.
As pro-life advocates trickled into Friendship Square, a silent counter-protest grew on the opposite side.
Nearly 300 pro-life supporters holding cardboard signs that read “It is a child, not a choice,” stood across approximately 50 counter-protesters, whose signs read “Keep your theology off my biology.”
Pro-life advocates settled in and Pastor Jonathon Krenz stood atop a bench, looking out over the crowd. He spoke into a megaphone, booming biblical verses across the square.
Krenz spoke on behalf of the religious pro-life community.
“Christians, you cannot be silent about this,” Krenz said. “This is not a political issue — this is a moral issue.”
Before ending his short speech with a prayer, Krenz reached out to women who have had an abortion.
“You are loved and valued by every pro-life person in this crowd,” he said.
Sam Paul, the president of the Moscow Right to Life and the coordinator of the March for Life event, said he equates abortion to murder.
“If we believe murder is wrong, then we should believe that abortion is wrong as well,” Paul said.
On the opposite side of the street, the counter-protesters remained, even as the pro-life crowd began to dissipate. Men chanted, “Their body, their choice,” as women responded, “My body, my choice.”
Many of the counter-protesters heard about the protest via a Facebook event that circulated the Moscow community.
The event page, coordinated by Audrey Faunce, read “This is a peaceful counter-protest. Antagonizing or otherwise engaging with March for Life participants is not allowed.”
Rylee Jensen, a University of Idaho student and one of the counter-protesters, said she joined after seeing the Facebook event and attended to show her support for Planned Parenthood.
Emily Gilmore heard about the counter-protest through word-of-mouth. She said she feels the country is changing because of protests like the two that met in downtown Moscow.
“We definitely have a very two-sided country, but it is bringing everyone together for what they believe,” Gilmore said. “I think this is a very healthy way to express our opinions.”
As an 18-year-old college student with New Saint Andrew’s College, Emma Story said she came to show her support for the pro-life movement and let others know people her age are willing to have conversations outside the internet.
“We are here and willing to have a conversation, rather than just yelling at one another over social media,” Story said.
Krenz said the March for Life protest aimed to bring pro-life opinions to the Moscow community in a peaceful manner.
“(We are here) to give witness to our community and most of all to be here in love and in peace — to show women and men that we can love and care for our children and our babies,” Krenz said.
Teresa Hernandez joined the counter-protest and said she is an advocate for a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.
“I don’t necessarily believe in abortion — but that’s my choice,” Hernandez said.
Elizabeth Dickson, a member of the pro-life community, said she knows women specifically march and protest for many reasons, similar to last year’s Women’s March. However, she said she wanted to distinctly express her pro-life views at the March for Life event.
“Part of the reason anyone marches or protests is to let the world know what they think,” Dickson said. “It’s encouraging to know that there are others that stand with you, and you are not alone in your beliefs.”
Counter-protester Erin Wheless said this was her first time participating in any sort of protest.
“It thought it would be really cool to come and show that I stand with anyone who wants the choice to decide what they want to do with their own body,” Wheless said.
It has been 44 years since the court ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade. Since then, members of both the pro-life and pro-choice communities have marched in January to express their beliefs.
Faunce said various women in the Moscow community have been coordinating counter-protests for years.
Faunce said she has always enjoyed participating in rallies, however, she did not start organizing her efforts until President Trump was elected.
“I didn’t see that anyone else was coordinating a counter-presence to let the other voices be heard,” Faunce said. “So, I was thinking, ‘I have a little free time — let’s do this.’”
Hailey Stewart and Savannah Cardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org