Life Chain demonstration against abortion gives Bloomington annual test of its ‘digital divide’

On Sunday, the reaction to the annual Life Chain demonstration against abortion, from motorists along Bloomington’s 3rd Street, could be measured in the difference between the digits of the human hand—a thumb turned up in approval, versus the middle finger turned skyward in scorn.

That’s what one local organizer of the event, Carole Canfield, calls the annual “digital divide” that is provoked by the demonstration.

It’s part of a national Life Chain demonstration, which is an annual event that started in 1987.

Clusters of people, in some cases families, were gathered along 3rd Street heading west into town, holding signs reading “Stop Abortion Now,” “Abortion Kills Children,” “Adoption: Loving Option,” and other similar statements.

Canfield spoke with the B Square at St. Charles Catholic Church, at 3rd and High streets. She handed off the organization of the local event last year to Clinton Mahoney. This year she helped hand out signs for those who were participating in the demonstration.  It’s described as a silent and prayerful occasion, when people stand for their opposition to abortion and their goal to end all abortions.

In the last year and a half, the legislative and judicial momentum, both nationally and in the state of Indiana, has swung against lawful abortions. A law banning most abortions in the state, known as SB1,  was enacted by Indiana’s legislature in a special session held in 2022. That came shortly after the Dobbs ruling by the US Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Earlier this year, Indiana’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that vacated a preliminary injunction against enforcement of SB1—in a lawsuit that was filed by Planned Parenthood in Monroe County’s circuit court.

That decision prompted a protest on the Monroe County courthouse lawn on the last day of July.

Sunday’s temperatures were in the low 80s, with clear skies. Canfield told The B Square that up to that point on Sunday, reaction from motorists was not unusual compared to what it typically is—some tap their horns in support, others give a thumbs up, and some give a thumbs down or a middle finger.

Walking the 3rd Street route, The B Square confirmed the digital divide as described by Candfield. One woman gave a thumbs down gesture and yelled out her open car window: “Boooo!” A young man yelled out the window, “I’m pro-abortion!”

Some motorists tapped their horns and waved their support of the demonstrators.

Residents of a house near the intersection of Rose Avenue and 3rd Street set up a kind of counter demonstration on their porch. They posted a sign that read “My Body, My Choice.”

Across from the Indiana University campus, standing on the south side of 3rd Street, a young man who gave his name as Mike, was holding a sign for the westbound traffic that read: “Life—the most inalienable right.”

As she was walking east, on the north side of 3rd Street, a woman looked up, spotted Mike with his sign, and without breaking stride, called out: “You know abortion is healthcare, right? And as a man you should have absolutely no fucking say in what women do.” From across the street, Mike did not engage, and she continued on her way.

The annual Life Chain, Canfield told The B Square, does not typically provoke a lot of confrontation. But Canfield said things could get “spicier” in January next year, when the Rally for Life will be on the lawn of the Monroe County courthouse.

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