Be There

Women of America: This Sunday, April 25. Washington, D.C. The March for Women's Lives. Be there.

This is it. It's all on the line now. Everyone who thinks she's too old, too tired and has done this too many times before, be there. Everyone who has never been to a women's march, who thought all the rights had long since been secured, who thinks feminism is old hat and has nothing to do with your life, be there. Bring your daughters, mothers, nieces, friends, husbands, sons and significant others. If you can't be there, get in touch with a local women's organization and help raise money for a "scholarship" to send someone else to represent you.

Minority women, be there. The NAACP, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Black Women's Health Imperative and many other minority groups are co-sponsoring the march. You know better than anyone how the lives of working mothers are being stressed and deformed by the lack of institutional response to the need for childcare and health care.

The March for Women's Lives is not just about choice on abortion, but literally about life or death for women all over the globe. The 34 Million Friends organization (which has been raising money dollar-by-dollar to replace the $34 million withheld for the last two years by the Bush Administration from the United Nations Population Fund) will be there. Founders Jane Roberts, a retired schoolteacher from California (the embodiment of all the Mrs. Witherspoons of our lives) and Lois Abraham, a lawyer from New Mexico, have raised millions and enabled the United Nations to re-open clinics in Mali and Senegal that provide pre-natal care and contraception. According to the Population Fund, the loss of $34 million from the United States led to two million more unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 deaths of infants and children. Bush is expected to withhold the $34 million appropriated by Congress for the coming year as well.

Anti-choice policies threaten the lives of women around the world. Kofi Annan said, "HIV infection and AIDS are spreading dramatically and disproportionately among women. Today, AIDS has a woman's face." The first official action George W. Bush took as president was to reinstate the global gag rule of the Reagan years -- no clinic that so much as mentions abortion, even to women who will die without it, can receive U.S. aid. Between 1972 and 1989, Planned Parenthood used USAID financial assistance to provide 330 million cycles of birth control pills, 1.3 million condoms, 14 million IUDs and provide $92 million in financial assistance to over 439 family planning agencies around the world. The gag rule cut all funding to Planned Parenthood. Of course, more abortions were the result.

The March for Women's Lives is about our lives in another sense as well. Mountains of research show the quality of women's lives is directly connected to family planning. Our ability to get education, make money and participate as citizens depends on our ability to control the number of children we have.

Anyone who thinks the anti-choice movement is only about repealing abortion rights has not been paying attention. Their agenda includes limiting knowledge about, and access to, safe contraception. Everything from "abstinence only" programs to the FDA's delay in approving emergency over-the-counter contraception is part of their agenda.

Republican women, be there. When George W. Bush ran in 2000, he never spoke of reversing Roe v. Wade. He spoke of "reverence for life" in the context of adoption policies and discouraging drunk driving. Many Republican women thought his anti-choice stance was largely convenient political posturing. The lengthening list of anti-choice executive orders, regulations, legal briefs, legislative maneuvers and, above all, judicial and administrative appointments can leave no doubt where we are headed. We are now going through the longest period of no change on the Supreme Court since James Madison was president. The most significant cases dealing with reproductive rights in the last decade have been decided by 5-4 majorities. President Bush has used recess appointments to put ultra-conservative judges on the bench. In a 1992 case, Clarence Thomas wrote, "We believe that Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled."

Barbara Bush, be there. You wrote in your book "A Memoir" that you are pro-choice. Sometimes, when a boy won't listen to his momma, she has to go outside family circles to make her point. Thousands of Texas women will be there with "Don't Mess with Texas Women" signs. Come march with us. Nancy Reagan, be there. You know President Bush's policy on stem cell research is derailing the search for a cure to Alzheimer's and other dread diseases. You have courageously spoken out on wanting to spare other families your pain. Join us.

Over 335 new state laws restricting a woman's right to choose have been passed in the last eight years. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties have no safe abortion provider. Twenty-four states have mandatory delays and state-prepared anti-choice propaganda. Anti-condom policies not only result in unwanted pregnancies but an increase in AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Right-wing legislation gives fertilized eggs more rights than women. Doctors are prevented from giving accurate information about birth control and abortion rights to their patients. Anti-choice terrorists continue to murder and bomb, intimidate and harass, but the Department of Homeland Security has no time for those terrorists. This is for our lives.

Be there.

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