Abortion supporters, opponents face-off in capital

Jay Lively

WASHINGTON – They wanted to make a point.

Joined with hundreds of thousands of others, they just may have.

Armed with a black pirate flag, colorful signs and loud voices, 22 women from Western were among hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the nation’s capital this weekend.

Their purpose: to support women’s issues and oppose the policies of the Bush administration.

The March for Women’s Lives overflowed the streets of Washington, as protesters from across the United States rallied for abortion rights.

Estimates ranged from 800,000 to 1 million people participated in the march.

The central issue was what many participants see as an increasing threat to Roe v. Wade, the controversial 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Bowling Green senior Shelley Glorioso was central to organizing the students and faculty that made the 12-hour trip to what event organizers dubbed was the “largest protest ever.”

“I am stoked about the turnout from Western,” Glorioso said. “I think it’s wonderful. We’re excited to be surrounded by all these strong, independent pro-choice feminists.”

The student marchers from Western were members of the Feminist Action Network.

They brought a pirate flag and costumes because they believe the Bush administration is “pirating” their rights, Glorioso said.

A political tone permeated from the event, which included speakers ranging from democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to musician Ani DiFranco.

“Get involved, get registered, get to the polls and get out and vote,” Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said during the rally.

She said there were 50 million women eligible to vote in the 2000 election who didn’t.

“I think everyone here has a consensus about the administration’s opinions about our bodies and our own freedoms,” Glorioso said. “I personally don’t like President Bush.”

The march began and ended at the Mall in front of the White House. The participants, decked out in bright clothes and carrying a variety of signs and banners, weaved their way through the streets.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion contingents were scattered at points along the way.

Maura McBride, 20, a junior at St. Joseph’s University, said her religious convictions were the reason she went to speak out against the rally.

“We’re here to promote life and to speak out the truth about abortion,” McBride said. “Abortion hurts a woman in and out of the womb and it is a crime against women and men.”

Others weren’t so certain.

Nashville sophomore Amanda Osborne said she has struggled with her own views concerning abortion but felt it was important to make the trip.

“I’m Christian and a lot of people in my life are Christian – so religion comes into it,” she said.

Osborne said she is conflicted about when life starts, but believes that God gave people the right to make that decision for themselves.

“It’s not just about women’s rights, it’s about rights for everyone,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think that abortion is right or wrong, I just think that women should be able to decide that for themselves.”

Accompanying some of the women were their male friends and partners, who marched side-by-side in support.

Christopher Todd, a student at the University of Louisville, spent part of the day marching with the Western group.

“A lot of anti-choice people are like, you’re not a woman, so why are you here, and I say that you don’t have to be a minority to oppose racism,” he said.

He said he opposes scaling back civil liberties and doesn’t believe that human rights are handed down by governments.

Though event organizers estimated that more than a third of the protesters were college-aged students and younger, many of the participants remembered when abortion was illegal.

Kathleen Sheldon, an instructor of physical education and recreation, was married with children before the Roe v. Wade decision was made.

Sheldon, who supports teaching abstinence, said a girl who rode her school bus when she was 15 years old died of a perforated uterus after an attempted abortion.

“It wasn’t someone from somewhere else, it was a girl that was on my bus on Friday and then the next thing I know she was dead,” she said. “I hope that there will never be a time when my daughter and her generation won’t have access to safe and legal abortion as a last resort.”

Reach Jay Lively at [email protected]