April 10, 1995

"Galvanized by a Republican-controlled Congress," tens of thousands of people gathered near the Capitol in Washington, DC, on 4/9 to protest violence against women (Wilgoren, WASH. POST, 4/10). The protesters applied the term "violence against women" not only to rape and domestic abuse, but also to "political assaults" on welfare, abortion and affirmative action. The Rally for Women's Lives, was organized by NOW and backed by more than 700 groups, including pro-choice groups, labor unions, civil rights groups, gay and lesbian organizations, environmentalists, socialists, victims' rights advocates and welfare recipients. The U.S. Park Police estimated that 50,000 people attended the rally, but NOW Pres. Patricia Ireland said the figure was closer to 200,000 (Cass, AP/PHILA. INQUIRER, 4/10). The "vast majority" of the protesters were women and most were white, though some minorities, men and children could be found at the event. Organizers said the rally was the "first step in influencing the political agenda for 1996." They said it was a response to the "increasingly conservative climate and growing violence at abortion clinics" (WASH. POST, 4/10). It focused "heavily" on House Speaker Newt Gingrich's conservative agenda. Speakers voiced "fears" that Congress would curtail abortion rights, cut welfare spending, dismantle affirmative-action programs and cut funding for programs to prevent domestic violence. They called such actions "political violence" against women. Feminist Majority Fdn. Pres. Eleanor Smeal: "Be it personal terror, it has just one purpose: control. We are the majority. Our rights will only be taken away if we allow the terrorists to reign" (AP/ INQUIRER, 4/10). Smeal drew "thunderous applause" when she vowed that the "Newt Gingrich Congress" would not outlaw abortion "in our lifetimes" (WASH. POST, 4/10). Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the rally and "lashed out" at GOPers: "We have the power to send Gingrich back to private life. He wants term limits. Let's give him 18 months" (REUTER, 4/10). NBC's Rodgers-Clark: "Their goal -- to launch a grass-roots campaign to stop all forms of violence against women, and to show opposition to congressional efforts to cut spending for social programs. ... Organizers hope their message will help to set Washington's priorities for the next 100 days" (4/9). The rally featured Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless of TV's "Cagney and Lacey," as well as several musical acts, including Toad the Wet Sprocket and Joan Jett. In addition, Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, attended the rally to add a T-shirt to the Nat'l Clothesline Project that represents the women in America that have been abused or killed due to domestic violence (AP/INQUIRER, 4/10).

CLINIC VIOLENCE: The rally, in part, was a memorial to the five people who have been killed in recent years at abortion clinics (WASH. POST, 4/10). June Barrett, wife of slain clinic escort James Barrett, said, "I survived that horrible nightmare and I am here today to say to you, help stop the violence and defend a woman's right to choose" (AP/INQUIRER, 4/10). Pro- choice Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) noted that most Americans back the right to abortion and that opponents resorted to the "most un-American of all things" in using violence to "crush and trample and subvert the rights of millions and millions of American women" (REUTER, 4/9). NBC's Rodgers-Clark: "There was loud condemnation for the anti-abortion movement." Pro-choice Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): "We won't go back to an era when women could terminate unwanted pregnancies only by subjecting themselves to the dangerous and fatal back-alley abortions" (NBC, 4/9).

PRO-LIFERS: Catholic Campaign for America exec. dir. Mary Ellen Bork: "We stand with the millions of women not represented by the National Organization for Women who think the greatest liberation for women is through education, not through a so- called 'right' to have an abortion. A feminist movement centered on violence against unborn human life lacks the strong moral base that leads to true freedom" (release, 4/7). Nat'l Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Helen Alvare in a WASH. POST op-ed writes that she gets a "queasy sensation every time one of these marches 'For Women's Lives' brings swarms of button-wearing women to downtown Washington" because of NOW's "obsession with keeping abortion legal. ... Abortion advocacy associates feminists with trampling on the rights of small, helpless human beings" (4/9). Concerned Women for America Pres. Beverly LaHaye said that NOW is "clearly out of touch with most American women. ... NOW's hysterical rhetoric about 'violence against women' is a facade for its real agenda of big government and abortion-on-demand" (Price, WASH. TIMES, 4/9). Operation Rescue dir. Jeff White: "Patricia Ireland's attack on the Republican's Contract with America is just one more demonstration that NOW is nothing more than a pet the Democrats use to bark at an issue" (release, 4/9). Abortion Industry Defense League exec. dir. Amy McInerny: "As NOW encourages women to march for abortion, it should tell women what abortion really is. When will NOW speak candidly to the American public about the way abortion services are really provided in this country?" (release, 4/7). NRLC Pres. Wanda Franz: "Women's lives have become a secondary concern for abortion advocacy groups who see promotion of abortion as their prime objective. Real concern for women must include protecting them from legal abortion, which has killed and injured untold numbers of women" (release, 4/7).

The Abortion Report

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