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National NOW Times >> Fall 2003 >> Article

Save Women's Lives: March for Freedom of Choice in 2004

by Amanda Cherrin, Communications Intern

Activists voiced their support for reproductive rights at the announcement of Save Women's Lives: March for Freedom of Choice event, which will be held April 25, 2004.
Activists voiced their support for reproductive rights at the announcement of Save Women's Lives: March for Freedom of Choice event, which will be held April 25, 2004. Leaders from the four organizing groups encouraged reporters to "get on the bus," a symbol of the massive numbers of people expected to travel by bus from across the country to Washington, D.C., for the March. Photo by Leonard Tengco

With abortion opponents dominating two branches of government, infiltrating the nation's courts, influencing state policy and threatening to topple the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the right to safe, legal and accessible abortion and birth control is in grave danger. In a massive effort to combat the attack on reproductive rights, NOW has joined with the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America to organize a march on Washington that will bring a unified voice to the abortion rights movement and send a clear message to elected officials that the deterioration of fundamental freedoms is unacceptable.

Set for April 25, 2004, Save Women's Lives: March for Freedom of Choice marks the first time that the four major women's rights and reproductive rights groups have collaborated to plan a march. This historic act of solidarity is in response to the desperate situation of women's rights in this country.

"Roe v. Wade hangs by a thread," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "And rumored anti-abortion replacements on the Supreme Court could serve for the next 40 years. In other words, the reversal of Roe would last for generations, and the entire reproductive life of my 10-year-old daughter hinges on what we do in the coming year. NOW will be mobilizing women and men across this country to March on Washington for our mothers, for our daughters, and for ourselves—there will never be a more important time to stand up for women's lives."

The current political climate is extraordinarily hostile to reproductive rights, and the situation could worsen dramatically if George W. Bush is reelected in 2004. During his time in the White House, Bush has chipped away at reproductive rights through policy measures and court appointments. The next president may have the opportunity to nominate as many as four Supreme Court justices, and the Roe decision, which is presently upheld by a 5-4 majority, will likely be overturned if justices similar to Bush's model Antonin Scalia are selected to fill Court vacancies. (For more on Scalia, click here.)

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "We stand for the principle that women—in consultation with their families and their physicians—should make their own reproductive and health decisions. Not politicians and not the government. The Bush administration, the U.S. Congress and the nation need to see hundreds of thousands of Americans showing their vocal support for reproductive freedom."

Twelve years after NOW organized the massive 1992 March for Women's Lives, in which a record 750,000 marchers descended upon the U.S. capitol, delegations from around the country will return to Washington in April to march from the Lincoln Memorial to a rally on the National Mall. This time, march organizers are looking for an even larger turnout to demonstrate the overwhelming majority support for women's rights and reproductive freedom.

"Everywhere that I go in this country people come up and ask me: 'When are we going to march again?' The time is now. We must sound the alarm that women's fundamental rights are in danger," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, who organized NOW's first abortion rights march in 1986. "The overwhelming majority of Americans will not go back to the days of back alley abortions. We refuse to be the generation that both won and lost the rights to birth control and abortion."

A broad range of progressive groups have already signed on as march co-sponsors. Dignitaries, celebrities and elected officials will also be invited to attend the march and show support for abortion rights.

"We have a simple message for anti-choice leaders who control the White House and Congress—don't tread on us, don't tread on our right to choose and don't tread on our right to privacy," said Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Americans will not stand by silently as our rights are trampled. Pro-choice Americans are on the move—ready to take to the streets to protect the health, lives and rights of American women."

To learn more about Save Women's Lives: March for Freedom of Choice, visit our joint web site www.marchforchoice.org and register to receive march updates, spread the word and become a co-sponsor, delegation organizer or volunteer.

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