Women’s Marches: Signs of the Times

Two marches took place in January 2017, one seeking to give and protect lots of individual rights, the other hellbent to take one of them away.

Guess which one I marched in.

I made my waterproof signs, fretted that rain and wind might dampen participation, and trekked downtown to join the first of these on January 21, the Women’s March on Washington, Tucson version. I was amazed and delighted that 14,999 of my closest friends had turned out as well, a friendly bunch of folks dedicated to a huge assortment of issues besides support for Planned Parenthood (LGBTQ, health care/ACA, environment, immigration, abortion, contraception, women …). When I got home, I looked online and turned on the TV to find the astonishing crowd scenes worldwide and our new president pouting like a 5-year-old about crowd size relative to his own inaugural event the previous day. (Have we entered The Twilight Zone yet?)

Anne Hopkins. Photo: Bill Yohey, Tucson marcher

Crowds at the Women’s March on Washington held in cities around the world were friendly and diverse, but fired-up, angry, ribald, bare-breasted, fist-in-the-air, we’ll-show-you sorts of gatherings. (The clever signs alone are reasons to attend these things!)

The following weekend, I surveyed the media reports on the March for Life, the 44th annual event for opponents of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision hoping to get that decision reversed by the Supreme Court. I was struck by the contrast between the two marches.

The Lifers were a more hopeful bunch, sensing that they have momentum now that their Republican supporters control both the presidency and Congress.

left: Marjorie Arons-Barron blog; right: Charles Dharapak

What other differences were notable?

Givers vs. Takers

The Women’s March was full of people wanting to expand rights and liberties for all individuals. The Lifer march was hellbent on taking away hard-won abortion rights, relying on a premise to which most of us have never agreed, that a fetus, not a legal “person,” should be equal in status to the legal person carrying it. The only way the Lifers seemed to care about women was in protecting us from our own decisions. Does anyone out there need these folks to watch out for them? I find this line of argument grates on me more than some others.

Presence of Religious Leaders

Religions have strong beliefs about abortion and, often, the primacy of fetal rights over maternal rights. I get that. Hey, believe whatever you want to guide your personal decisions. What I don’t get is that religious believers who benefit greatly from our constitutional protections for freedom OF religion refuse to grant the rest of us the flip side, freedom FROM religion. If these folks would just stop taking the lazy route through lawmaking and focus on moral persuasion, I would not find their presence so galling. But, there they were, out in force.

Stand down, Pope. Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.

left: Kacper Pempel/Reuters; right: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Need Planned Parenthood?

One anonymous Lifer belittled Planned Parenthood’s importance in providing health care for women, saying in a crowd interview that more people were at Women’s March on Washington than Planned Parenthood counts as clients. Gosh, didn’t it look like just the U.S. share of marchers would make a sizable group of Planned Parenthood clients? Alternative-fact check: While there were an estimated 470,000 marchers at the January 21 event in Washington (and 4.8 million marchers worldwide in 673 separate marches on all seven continents), Planned Parenthood serves 2.5 million clients, which is more than five times the crowd size on January 21.

Jodi Liggett, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public affairs, speaking at the Phoenix march, said it best: “Planned Parenthood prevents more abortions than any picketer, preacher, or politician ever has and ever will.”

left: Anna C., Tucson marcher; right: Tasos Katopodis/AFP

Who Speaks for Women?

“Abortion Betrays Women” says the Lifer sign on right. What does that even mean?

left: Anna C., Tucson marcher; right: Bob Roller/CNS

To Regret or Not to Regret

Out in force at the Lifer march were printed “I Regret My Abortion” signs. OK, but most women don’t. Check the research. I hope all women are kind enough to themselves to say, “I made the best decision I could at the time.” And I really, really wish that Lifers would stop relying on anecdotes and emotional appeals and look at how factually unsubstantiated their positions are. I am not holding my breath on that one.

left: Ms. blog; right: AFP/Getty

Guy and gals, we need to keep up the drum beat, stay visible, and protect ourselves. Hint, don’t toss out your signs just yet. Chances are good we’ll have lots of opportunities to use them again. Next big targets? House of Representatives midterm elections in 2018 and Arizona elections along the way.

I got such a kick out of making my own signs, that I decided to design a few for the Lifers to use next year, because they are so far behind us in the cleverness department and so secretive about their underlying motives.