US women urge big turnout for April march
Citing what she called an assault by the Bush administration on the rights of women, Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), told a standing-room-only crowd at New York University (NYU) on October 28, "We're here about a very real threat to a whole variety of rights under the Constitution from this administration, and more importantly, the judges who are appointed to lifetime positions on the federal courts". Gandy led off a panel discussion at NYU called to mobilise for a national pro-choice rally on April 25, 2004, in Washington, DC. She warned, "Those courts are already taking on many of the gains that the civil rights, the women's rights, the human rights movements have fought for and won over the past 40 years". For the first time, she said, all three branches of government are under the control of the far right, giving them unprecedented power. Gandy emphasised that abortion issues are only a part of a sweeping attack on all rights associated with family planning. The ultra-right is also going after birth control and the rights of poor women to have children, by cutting welfare and day care programs. "If you're a mom on welfare, and you're getting $282 a month in Mississippi, they're going to tell you, 'If you dare to have another child, we're going make sure you can't feed your other kids'. Because now, that welfare check is going to have to be split four ways instead of three." Elizabeth Toledo, communications Vice President of Planned Parenthood, agreed: "What's happening now is best described as 'death by 1,000 cuts' — a small attack here, a little bit bigger cut here, what seems like a different attack here, an attack over here, a stealth attack behind us. It isn't until you look at the aggregate that you realize just how far we've slid back in recent years." Sylvia Enriquez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said that while the Bush administration's attacks on women's rights hurt all women, women of colour are especially affected. "We have the highest number of women without health insurance. Almost 28 percent of Latinas don't have access to pre-natal care, which is also an integral part of the broad spectrum of reproductive rights. We are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted diseases. "We do not have access to culturally sensitive, linguistically appropriate health care providers in our communities, and we also have limited access to safe and affordable abortions." Mary Alice Carter, the advocacy programs director of the New York National Abortion Rights Action League, agreed that next April's march in Washington is imperative. "We have to promise we're gong to be at the march", said Carter, "so there's a massive demonstration that we don't like where this country is going and we're not going to watch it go that way". Organisers expect the rally to draw over a million participants, which Gandy said could have a major effect on the course of public policy, noting that these tactics were able to defend Roe v Wade in 1992, and to help sweep into Congress more women than ever before. "Well, we're gonna be back there again", she said. "It's important that the groups that are usually vocal — college-aged women, people who already call themselves 'feminists' — are not the only people at this march", said Jessica Wakeman, President of NOW at NYU, which organised the event with Voices for Choice, another campus group. Much emphasis was placed on the need for the rally to be as diverse as possible: "We need to organise the largest delegation of Latinas ever in Washington DC on April 25," said Enriquez. "It's not just about abortion. It 's about bringing social justice to our communities." Meredith King, who works in the march office, told the People's Weekly World, "I'm here because as a young African American female I think it's tremendously important that other African American females are here, to show that African Americans are part of the pro-choice movement".
* * *People's Weekly World