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March For Women’s Lives
L ike many who participated in the April 25 March for Women’s Lives, nurse Joyce Amit marched in memory of women she had never met. “Two of my great aunts died from illegal abortions,” she said. “They were between 18 and 20 and unmarried. My family didn’t talk about them much so I know very little about what actually happened. But I know enough that I never want to see another woman die that way.”
Some marchers carried photos of loved ones lost to back alleys, while others carried signs of a less personal nature. Their messages targeted an array of social ills:
- Regulate industries, not ovaries
- Fight for women’s lives, not world domination
- Against abortion? Have a vasectomy
no second term
- Terminate unwanted presidencies
- Derechos reproductivos son derechos humanos
Keep your rosaries
Susan Davis, a feminist activist who first demonstrated for abortion-on-demand in 1970, was impressed that the march was about reproductive rights, rather than simply abortion. “It felt like an anti-Bush rally that tackled a range of issues, from welfare to racism to misogynist polices in the U.S. and around the world,” she said. “It was also great to see more men, more young people, and more women of color than usual.”
boasted that the demonstration drew participants from 57 countries.
In addition, youth came in droves, with at least one-third of the
more than one million marchers younger than 25. Colleges—including
Catholic Notre Dame and Georgetown—sent huge delegations.
For many, the march was the culmination of a week of activities. Planned Parenthood sponsored a street fair in Dupont Circle, distributing information on everything from emergency contraception to AIDS prevention, while the National Network of Abortion Funds held its annual conference to promote programs to assist low-income women. Fundraisers of all kinds generated revenue for a host of cash-starved groups.
Militancy was also on display. Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), a thorn in the Church’s side for more than 30 years, hosted a rally at the Vatican Embassy the day before the march to denounce “Christian fundamentalism.” Calling the Embassy a “crass, crude political machine,” CFFC president Frances Kissling denounced the church for sitting at the UN “like any other state and voting on whether women live or die.”
“It is sometimes hard for Catholics to call their own religious leaders fundamentalists,” she continued. “But one of fundamentalism’s central tenets is the control of women’s lives, especially over reproduction. No other religion has blanket prohibitions against contraception for married couples and against abortion for all reasons.”
Pauline Muchina, a member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, further lambasted Catholic protocols that teach that condom use is wrong, despite its proven effectiveness against disease. “Saving lives is more important than preserving traditions,” she said. “There are 14 million African children living without parents because of AIDS. We can stop HIV/AIDS if we end gender discrimination and poverty and give people the tools to protect them- selves from infection.”
This theme was echoed at the Sunday March for Women’s Lives. Speakers—120 were scheduled—included celebrities alongside politicians and activists. While some used the podium to solicit support for Democratic candidates, others denounced:
- the narrowing separation between church and state
- the winnowing away of abortion rights and abortion access
- the global gag rule that cut funding to health centers that counsel women about, or perform, abortions in 16 countries
- the curtailment of civil liberties since September 11
- abstinence-only sex education programs
“There is a war going on, a war on women,” Whoopi Goldberg told cheering rally-goers. “We are one Supreme Court vote away from losing Roe in the U.S. and, as we stand here, women around the world are dying from illegal abortion. One woman dies of an illegal procedure every six minutes. They die because they got pregnant in the wrong country.”
“You’d think the Administration would support contraception to reduce the number of abortions, but they don’t,” Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) thundered. “This government is the greatest danger on earth,” veteran feminist Gloria Steinem declared. “It has broken every environmental treaty and stands with only the Vatican and Muslim extremist countries against reproductive freedom.” Although Steinem urged demonstrators to oppose Bush and his minions, she also asked that they remember movement martyrs:
- Fannie Lou Hamer, who was sterilized against her will
- Becky Bell, the first teen to die because of parental consent laws
- Rosie Jimenez, a single mother who died because she could not get a government-funded Medicaid abortion
Other speakers posited more pragmatic agendas. “The battle is won or lost at the ballot box,” said Bylle Avery, of the National Black Women’s Health Project. “You need to go up to strangers and be a walking, talking voting machine between now and November.”
New York Senator Hillary Clinton got the day’s biggest applause when she told the crowd, “If all we do is march today, it will not change the direction this country is heading in. This must be the beginning, not the end. Keep in mind, 50 million women in our country did not vote in 2000. You have to be willing to stand up for the Constitution and elect John Kerry in November.”
Although a few demonstrators sported “Republicans for Choice” placards, the crowd was largely in Kerry’s corner. As marchers reached 17th Streets and Constitution Avenue, a team of Democratic Party activists handed “Women for Kerry” stickers to an overwhelmingly appreciative crowd. “J.K. all the way” chants erupted.
Other chants were aired as participants made their way through streets lined with anti-abortionists:
- Ho, ho, hey, hey: abortion rights are here to stay
- Pro-life, that’s a lie. You don’t care if women die
- 2,4,6,8: we’re the one’s who ovulate
- George Bush, you’ve got to go. When you get pregnant, let us know
Bethel Schlau, a Brooklyn, New York editor and mother who has had two abortions, felt enormously empowered by the messages she heard at both the march and rally. “It was fantastic seeing all those people together saying, ‘Keep your hands off my body’.” She says, “I had to terminate a pregnancy in my 20th week because of a genetic abnormality, so I am especially furious about the so-called partial birth prohibition. If I hadn’t been able to have a D&E, I would have gone insane.”
Virtually everyone queried at the march had something positive to say about the event, yet many worry that the day’s momentum will be difficult to sustain. Alison Garcia, a first time demonstrator, fears, “All of our energy is going to go into defeating Bush and not enough is going into making sure that Kerry and the Democrats uphold reproductive freedom. We need to be sure that both parties are held accountable to women and the issues feminists care about.”
For its part, NARAL is losing no time in keeping activists engaged. The day after the march, the group sent an email to supporters asking them to share their march stories, write letters to the editor to contest inaccurate march coverage, register to vote, and participate in both local and national elections. “The effort of 31 years since Roe v. Wade can be undone if we lose in November,” the email warned.
Eleanor Bader is a freelance writer and teacher. She is also co-author of Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.