Women’s History Friday Roundup: The Rally Edition

by Gloria Feldt on March 4th, 2011
in Create a Movement, Define Your Own Terms, Know Your History, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , ,

In 2004, women made history by descending on Washington in droves to March for Women’s Lives. Estimates vary about how many people attended the march, but it’s pretty safe to say that there were over 1 million pro-choice activists in D.C. in 2004, myself included (see pink jacket next to Madeleine Albright on the frontline).  This was the largest protest march in Washington’s history, though you wouldn’t have known it from the tepid press reporting. Once again, women’s history was given short shrift.

Last weekend a Walk for Choice was held in cities across the globe. Here is a roundup of photos from rallies across the country–the decentralized nature of the walk made it impossible to get exact numbers, but the geographic dispersion was impressive.

This Is a Sampling of What a Pro-Choice Rally Looks Like:

NYC – Feministing
Boston Walk for Choice
Walk for Choice Chicago – Feministing
Tucson Walks for Choice – Feminists for Choice

Also across the country for the past couple of months, events have been held to celebrate Roe v. Wade, the Supreme court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. Sarah Weddington was the young Texas lawyer who successfully argued the case. Be sure to visit this tribute to her.

I had the honor of presenting former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard with the Sarah Weddington Warrior Award at the Planned Parenthood Arizona Roe v. Wade Luncheon the day before the Walk for Choice. (That’s my daughter Tammy on the left.)  Goddard’s strong record in favor of reproductive rights is a breath of fresh air for Arizona. The day’s buzz included speculation about who will run for Jon Kyl’s (R-anti-choice) soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Being the resident historian (I was CEO of the AZ affiliate from 1978–1996) I mused to myself that the Walk for Choice and the current panic over the fate of family planning funding and abortion access was necessitated by the fact that people have not yet learned the lessons of history. So I exercised a point of personal privilege.

I reminded the crowd about Panache, a Planned Parenthood support group of young activists formed in the 80’s–when Ronald Reagan tried to eliminate Title X, defund PP, and impose outrageous restrictions on family planning providers. Does all this sound familiar?

We defeated them that time around, and I believe we will defeat them again. But we should not have to fight this battle over and over. Instead, we should have held President Obama’s feet to the fire from the day he was elected and demanded that he keep his campaign promises to place the Freedom of Choice Act (codifying the civil right to make childbearing choices without discrimination) at the top of his agenda, support abortion coverage, and give unequivocal support to family planning programs. The best defense is still a good offense.

Goddard had been a founding member of Panache, and it was a pleasure to thank him for having demanded as mayor that the resistant Phoenix police department give full protection to health centers besieged by Operation Rescue. I also had a chance to point out his clear and consistent  positions on reproductive health throughout his political career. He supports women’s human right to reproductive self-determination, without regulations that interfere with access to care. He supports the current law requiring health insurance coverage for contraception, as well as public funding for family planning services for low-income women.

But it’s important to note that those contraceptive coverage and public funding laws didn’t just happen. We made them happen over a decade ago, in political climates very like the one bemoaned today. The way out of the current mess is to go proactive with a constant barrage of legislative and policy initiatives, so we aren’t fighting on adversaries’ turf.  We can define the public debate—as Sarah Weddington did.

If you’ve got photos that you would like to add to our historical record of the Walk for Choice (however “unofficial” it might be), please leave a link in the comments section. And by all means, take a moment to share your most proactive and innovative thoughts about what history you want to write for the future of reproductive rights, health, and justice.

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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