A pro-life and a pro-choice protest collided. There was singing and hugs.

On Jan. 21, millions of women across the country and world marched for equality. But not all of them agreed on what that meant.

Kate Munger, a 67-year-old Bay Area resident, had been asking around to find out what kinds of demonstrations might be going on nearby when she got wind of the Walk for Life West Coast, a massive march against abortion rights that takes place every year in San Francisco.

This year, the Walk for Life and the Women's March happened on the same day.


Photo by John Gress/Getty Images

Munger says she is strongly pro-choice, but abortion rights haven't always been her primary passion. Still, she saw this sharp coincidence as a powerful opportunity to practice democracy.

Munger, a lifelong singer and founder of the Threshold Choir, called up all the vocalists she knew and asked if they'd be willing to help her confront the Walk for Life ... with song.

She imagined meeting the opposition head-on with "blessings and songs." She wanted to fiercely oppose their ideas while also upholding their right to campaign for their own issues.

Still, it took Munger a while to commit to the idea. "It sounded too dangerous," she says. "It sounded too challenging."

Many of her friends agreed. But in the end, she found 11 singers willing to join her.

On the day of the march, Munger and her fellow singers traveled to San Francisco by ferry and began with some vocal warmups.

After a little practice — and steeling themselves for the confrontation ahead — the group took its place. They began to sing as thousands and thousands of pro-life activists bore down on them.

For hours, they hardly stopped to take a breath, let alone utter an antagonistic word. The 12 women simply sang, while holding a sign that said the rest:

"We don't agree with you AND we uphold your right to your beliefs in our democracy."

GIF via Ellen Silva, used with permission.

Munger says it wasn't easy to maintain composure. "We were two lines of six women being bored down on by literally hoards of people. At times it was really scary."

Most of the Walk for Lifers didn't pay any mind or didn't seem to get the message. But the few that did? Munger says "that made all the difference."

Photo by Emma Silver/KQED, used with permission.

According to an article by Emma Silver for KQED, one marcher stopped to hug Munger and the other singers before continuing on.

Others appreciated an opportunity for peaceful disagreement. That's really what Munger's demonstration was about, even more than abortion.

Though it was about that, too.

"I think we need to exercise our democracy, practice our democracy, not take it for granted," she says. "I don't feel that Donald Trump [and his administration] are showing any respect for democracy."

She's right. With so many people actively dismissing or criticizing protest efforts following the election, it's fair to wonder if the very pillars of our society are at stake.

And if they are, the voices of women and people of color are at the greatest risk.

Kudos to Munger for exercising hers without drowning out others in the process.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less