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National NOW Times >> Spring 2002 >> Article

Activists Filibuster Senators on March 8; Feminists Organize to Protect and Advance Roe v. Wade

by Monica Martinez, Field Organizer

More than seven years have passed without a vacancy on the Supreme Court — the longest period in almost 180 years — and George W. Bush will undoubtedly have the opportunity to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice. Anticipating that he will continue to wage war on women's reproductive rights by nominating a justice determined to overturn Roe v. Wade, NOW is organizing a campaign to raise awareness of the threats facing the right to choose abortion.

Hundreds of activists gathered outside the Supreme Court for the Capital City NOW Candlelight Vigil on the 29th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Jan. 22, 2002.

NOW kicked-off its Campaign to Protect and Advance Roe with a National Day of Speak-Outs on Jan. 22, the 29th anniversary of the Roe decision.

During this nationwide action NOW activists and other abortion-rights supporters delivered powerful and compelling personal testimonies on the need for safe and legal abortion, the effects of illegal abortions in the United States and around the globe, and the consequences of unwanted pregnancies.

NOW chapters and activists throughout the country enjoyed tremendous success with this phase of the campaign, firing them up for the next step on March 8 and the continuing fight to keep abortion legal and increase access to women across the country.

Despite the government's focus on the "war on terrorism," the administration and its conservative allies in Congress continue to push for passage of their right-wing agenda, an agenda that imperils Roe.

Although limited and threatened, abortion is still legal in the U.S. However, the next Supreme Court justice could tip the tenuous pro-choice balance of the current court — doing away with decades of hard work to obtain and protect women's reproductive freedom.

President Bush's nominees to the district and appellate courts — a large number of whom are members of the extremist Federalist Society — are a clear indication of his proclivity for right-wing judges. Most of them have an abysmal record on abortion, having expressed their disagreement with Roe v. Wade in decisions and/or statements in their respective courts.

Bush has also unequivocally vowed to "do everything in [his] power to restrict abortions," and said that he would support a constitutional amendment banning abortions, with the possible exception of cases involving rape, incest and circumstances threatening a woman's life. He even declared Sunday, Jan. 20 to be National Sanctity of Life Day and spoke by phone to the anti- abortion rally on the Mall.

"We have no reason to believe that Bush won't keep his word to the extremist wing of his party," said NOW Action Vice President Olga Vives. "Given the opportunity to replace a Supreme Court justice, Bush is sure to select an anti-abortion, anti-woman candidate."

Recognizing this threat, delegates to the National NOW Conference in Philadelphia last July passed a resolution committing the organization to a series of events aimed at "protecting and advancing" Roe v. Wade, and getting the message out that although abortion is still legal today, it remains inaccessible to many women.

Access is especially limited for women who are young, poor, rural, have disabilities, are in the military or live on a reservation — and women of color are disproportionately affected.

On March 8, NOW will stage the second phase of this exciting campaign—national sit-ins or "mock filibusters" in which NOW chapters will conduct meetings in Senators' home offices nationwide and present the non-stop testimonials (in the nature of a filibuster) collected at the Jan. 22 Speak-Outs. Their goal is to secure pledges from Senators that they will filibuster any nominee who does not clearly support Roe.

"More than ever, women must speak out against efforts to further restrict abortion," says Vives. "Women throughout the country must be made aware of the imminent danger to their reproductive freedom."

Thousands of activists attended NOW's Emergency Action for Women's Lives on April 22, 2001, sending a message that they will stand up to threats against Roe v. Wade.

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