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ISSUE 117 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/7/2004

March in D.C unifies all for cause

By Melanie Meinzer
Contributing Writer
and Shannon Merillat
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 7, 2004

I have a problem with the terms pro-life, and pro-abortion. These days, people who are opposed to women having the choice of whether or not to have an abortion describe themselves as being pro-life. Using the term pro-life in this way implies that the other side is pro-death,an unfair and undeserved accusation. Many pro-choice people describe themselves also as being pro-child, pro-family; pro-life essentially. Indeed, there are many positions on abortion, but the April 25 March for Womens Lives championed the pro-choice attitude.

The march showed America that pro-choice activists are fighting for womens rights and lives. Kate Michelman, president of Pro-Choice America, summed up this attitude when she described the march as being about the totality of womens lives and the right to make decisions about our lives.

Having not attended the march myself, I sought out those Oles that had. Thirteen St. Olaf students and 30 Carleton students attended the march. Anah Sikorsky 04, co-chair of Students for Reproductive Health and Choice on campus and an intern for Minnesotas Pro-Choice America, was one of the Olaf 13. She thought the strong presence of anti-Bush sentiments at the march was a good thing. She said that prior to Bushs election, people didnt realize the negative effect he would have on the country . Bush has jeopardized the rights of women by enacting the global gag rule, which prohibits overseas family planning agencies who perform abortions from receiving U.S money.

Bush has further endangered the rights and health of women by signing a ban on partial-birth abortion which CNN called the first federal law to endow a fetus with legal rights distinct from the pregnant mother. Planned Parenthood states that this partial birth abortion ban will deny women access to needed procedures and that it is unconstitutional because it does not provide exceptions to protect womens health.

People [at the rally] didnt want him re-elected. People were pro-Kerry [who is pro-choice], but mostly they were just anti-Bush, Sikorsky said. Even in this very charged pre-presidential election atmosphere, advocacy for the candidates didnt overshadow the marchs primary goal of promoting womens rights.

Sikorsky said that one of the things that made the march such a phenomenal and positive experience was being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals. According to the organizers of the march, there were 1.15 million pro-choice activists, the biggest crowd since the 1995 Million Man March. I believe the staggering numbers and positive energy of the march will empower pro-choice people everywhere. The march has communicated to women that they are not alone, and so many people from all over the nation support them.

There were also many celebrities who attended the rally following the march, including actors Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon and Cybill Shepherd; singers Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls and Moby; political figures such as former secretary of State Madeline Albright, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), billionaire Ted Turner, and of course the feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Patricia Ireland.

Sikorsky also said that the diversity among march participants was considerable. There were a great deal of men and children, and people of every race and ethnicity. In fact, 57 different nations were represented at the march.

As at any pro-choice march, there were anti-choice counter-demonstrators. However, their scarce numbers and the positive energy of the pro-choice marchers prevented them from causing a substantial stir. Sikorsky mentioned that the handful of anti-choice protesters was very offensive, brandishing signs that read God hates you, Shame, shame, shame, and displaying large grotesque images of aborted fetuses. These offensive messages and pictures are the favorite ammunition of anti-choice protesters everywhere. At a march I attended in St Paul a few weeks ago, I was confronted by such inappropriate signs: ten-foot high posters of mutilated, bloody, aborted fetuses, and protest signs that said: Repent.

In all the marches I have attended, never have I seen a pro-choice activist displaying anything so horribly offensive. I find it perplexing that the main argument of anti-choice people against legalized abortion is religious, when the issue involves the American governmenta secular government. That fact alone should nullify their arguments.

The March for Womens Lives was a spectacular example of what being pro-choice is about. Its about protecting the rights of women, and not allowing the government the ability to control womens personal decisions or womens health.

Staff Writer Shannon Merrillat is a first year from Burnsville, Minn. She majors in English and nursing.

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