The Portland Alliance, April 2004
I once read a factoid claiming that if enough people on Earth
stomped their feet on the ground at exactly the same time, the
accumulated seismic vibrations would be enough to blow the planet
apart. This is the image that lingers my head as I consider the
enormous preparations being undertaken for April 25th's March For
Women's Lives in Washington DC.
Massive organizational cross pollenization the likes of which the
pro-choice movement has never seen before have come together to put on
this event. The march is being organized by an amazing number of
organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Black
WoMen's Health Imperative, Feminist Majority, NARAL Pro-Choice America,
and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. The National
Organization for Women and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America
and co-sponsoring organizations are too numerous to list with about 400
organizations officially on board at the time of this writing. Persons
interested in attending or volunteering can contact local affiliations
of these groups for more information and check out the website www.marchforwomen.org for a complete list of co-sponsors as well as oodles of other 'choice' information.
April 25 looks like it will easily break the record set on April 5,
1992, when the National Organization for Women brought 750,000 abortion
rights supporters together in Washington, D.C. for womens' rights the
largest march and rally ever held in the nation's capital. Originally
titled March for Choice, feedback from participants led to broadening
the aim of the demonstration to encompass all reproductive rights in
addition to choice, though the embattled issue of the right to choose
abortion is of paramount interest to many attendees. Last November, in
the year Roe v. Wade turned 30, Congress and George W. Bush made the
first legal ban against a medical procedure in the history of the
United States. The "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban," makes it illegal for
doctors to perform a medical procedure sometimes required to save
women's lives and health. This unprecedented violation of patients’
rights has spurred many people to action, including many who have never
been politically active in the past.
Virginia Somes is one such woman. "I can't think of another issue
that would make me, go to D.C.", she explains of her decision to attend
the march with her friend, Elizabeth Coleman, and Elizabeth's
mother-in-law Jean Herron. A math teacher who describes herself as "not
very active" politically, Virginia reached the tipping point when the
Bush Administration's displayed open hostility towards women's right to
choose by passing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. "They passed it
without a caveat that if a woman's life is in danger that it's an
appropriate situation. It's about women being secondary."
When Planned Parenthood activist Elizabeth invited Virginia to come
back in October, Virginia's first thoughts were of her profession's
annual conference happening the same weekend. She decided to attend the
Oregon Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges conference on
Friday and leave partway through Saturday to make the flight to
Washington, D.C. "I almost said no, but then I thought that this is
important enough. For me, the issue of choice has to do with
controlling your life."
Rallies, demonstrations and marches can start enthusiastic but
inexperienced activists down the path of community leadership while
energizing active movement members who have been facing the storm
against women's reproductive rights for many years. Author and poet
Muriel Rukeyser once said, "What would happen if one woman told the
truth about herself? The world would split open." While I don't believe
the stomping feet in Washington, D.C. on April 25 will be enough to
shatter the world, let's hope it will be enough to knock some sense
into legislators who think women's reproductive rights are negotiating
tools instead of an inherent liberty. I will be attending the March'
for Women's Lives and will share my account with Portland Alliance readers in the June edition.
S.M.Berg is an activist, bicyclist, and writist in Portland
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