The war on women may seem like an endless battle, but this weekend thousands of women joined together to make it clear that we are ready to fight back. Across the country, women gathered to march and protest the political football that has become women’s health and rights within both national and local legislatures.
In Kansas, where reproductive rights have become so restricted the state government practically uses a rubber stamp to approve anti-women bills, 400 people gathered in Topeka in the “We Are Women” rally.
“Today’s rally was part of a national movement that has had enough of the war on women,” rally organizer Kari Ann Rinker says.
While there was a similar rally in every state, organizers say their cause is of particular urgency in Kansas right now given the current wave of conservatism that is dominating state government here.
“Not only do we have a governor who sees fit to sign every piece of anti-choice legislation that crosses his desk, the atrocity is the failure to care for the living, breathing children and families that reside here in Kansas,” Rinker says.
And although most of the action was in Topeka, the small town of Pittsburg, Kansas, hosted a march of their own.
Ross compared the women’s march to an earlier event in Crawford County history. Back in December of 1921 an “Amazon Army” of miners’ wives, sweethearts, daughters and sisters marched through the coalfields for three days in support of striking miners against injustice and unfair labor laws.
“It’s time again for the women of southeast Kansas to unite and make our voices heard,” Ross said. “We want politicians to know that they have our attention and we vote.”
Mississippi, which is likely to become the first state to lose any access to legal, safe abortion if courts do not step in to overturn new local laws, may not have seen as many marchers as Kansas, but they were just as passionate. Calling themselves “WAR” (Women Are Representing), roughly 100 protesters marched on the state capitol, demanding that the legislature stop pushing bills that the voters have made clear they do not want.
“It feels like no one is listening because I thought we, I was pretty sure we voted in November against personhood which meant we really do need to have not an abortion free Mississippi but a Mississippi where there’s access to abortive care,” said Lauri Roberts, spokesperson for Mississippi Women Are Representing.
Wisconsin’s rallies were focused not just on women’s economic and reproductive freedom, but on Governor Scott Walker’s recall election as well, as many adovcates see him as the key reason that the state has begun limiting women’s rights and opportunities. As Jessica Mason Pieklo writes from the 100-person strong Madison rally,
I attended the rally in Madison, Wisconsin where the event had an additional air of urgency with the recall elections in the state fast approaching. Speakers railed against Gov. Scott Walker (R)’s repeal of equal pay laws, relentless assault on reproductive choice and family planning and, of course, his campaign against worker rights. But those attending the rally wanted it to be clear that they were out not just to be against Gov. Walker’s policies, but for policies that place Wisconsin women and families first.
Tennessee also saw one of its rallies turn overtly political as a local Republican state senate candidate attempted to tell about his support for women’s freedoms — except when it comes to reproductive rights.
Men and women gave testimony as to why they were present, while others in the crowd held signs reflecting their positions. The sign of South Knoxvillian Corinne Rovetti read, “Defeat the Tennessee Taliban,” with the names of Republican Sens. Becky Duncan Massey, Stacey Campfield, Doug Overbey and Mae Beavers and Reps. Matthew Hill and Harry Brooks listed. The sign also said, “Keep your religion off of my religion and rights.”
Gloria Johnson, chair of the Knox County Democratic Party and also a candidate for the 13th House District, told the crowd more women need to step up to run for government.
Afterward, [Republican candidate Garry] Loe was encouraged by some also to speak. As he stepped forward, there were shouts of “we’re not going back.”
Loe said he wholeheartedly supports women on the issues of housing, education and jobs. Someone shouted, “How about Planned Parenthood?” He did not respond but said later that he is an anti-abortion advocate. Johnson said she is an abortion rights advocate.
In Houston, one of many Texas rallies, over 1500 marchers sought to speak out against the states most recent attempts to restrict women’s reproductive rights — the mandatory ultrasound law and the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and limit a woman’s right to health care and contraception, both enthusiastically signed into law by Texas Governor Rick Perry.
“We fought this fight 40 years ago,” said Susan Haney, one of the organizers of the Texas rally. “Our daughters and granddaughters should not have to fight it again.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, urged people in the crowd to make their frustration known in the upcoming primary election, the November election and beyond.
“Do we have a movement here or do we have a moment?” Doggett asked.
It was a movement, not a moment, in Richmand, Virginia, where 300 protesters reminded lawmakers that they were neither forgiving nor forgetting the legislature’s decision to force women seeking pregnancy terminations to undergo mandatory vaginal ultrasounds.
Some protesters carried professionally printed signs that carried messages such as “Stop the War on Virginia Women.” Others waved more colorful, homemade posters: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and “Va. Gov. McDonnell. The Vaginal Probe Guy.”
“Women are powerful — despite the way we are treated and what we are told,” said Victoria Bragunier, president of the Richmond chapter of the National Organization of Women.
The New York City rally actually marched down Broadway during their event, and brought celebrities into the action.
They chanted “Not the church, not the state, women must control their fate.”
Protester Brenda Reiss says she’s taking part because of efforts in several states to restrict access to abortion and contraception. She says women “will not be shoved back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.”
Protesters included actress Martha Plimpton, star of Fox TV’s “Raising Hope.”
Plimpton tweeted that it was “a beautiful day for yelling at the government.”
And in Minnesota, where 300 people marched on the capitol despite the rain and cold, local politicians and activists demanded women’s rights while the legislature was in session.
“We organized this march in Minnesota because we have had enough,” said Laura Nevitt, event organizer and President of the DFL (Democratic Farmer-Laborer) Feminist Caucus. “When 31 male US Senators think its ok to vote against the Violence Against Women Act, its not ok. When thousands of pieces of legislation are getting introduced across this country that directly attack women and their rights, freedoms and equality – its time to unite, to mobilize and say ‘ENOUGH!”
“Enough” is right. Across the country, women are showing will not be silent any longer.