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March for Women's Lives Draws 1 Million

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release May 3, 2004

March for Women's Lives Draws 1 Million to Nation's Capital in Defense of Reproductive Rights

Produced by Melinda Tuhus

Listen in RealAudio:

Between The Lines: Rallygoers filled the entire mall between Williams and Connecticut before snaking into the street to express their demands for protecting -- and expanding -- reproductive rights, including abortion, birth control, and women’s health care in general. The call was for “choice, justice, access, health, global and family planning.” But protection of abortion rights was the overwhelming primary objective, and John Kerry was the overwhelming choice of the man for the job. The day before the march, Kerry had made yet another pro-choice speech. Frances Kissling, founder and long-time president of Catholics for a Free Choice, alluded to Kerry and other politicians when she spoke at the morning rally.

Frances Kissling: I am here to tell you that we will not put up with religious leaders who tell us that pro-choice Catholic policymakers can’t receive communion. That is a sin.

Between The Lines: Some women had wondered before the march if young women – those who had been born after the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973 -- would come to the rally, since they had no experience with the horrors of illegal abortion. But an estimated one-third of the marchers were under 25, and that included quite a few men, along with hundreds of thousands of women.

Tanya Hahnel is a 21-year-old student at Swarthmore, an elite college outside Philadelphia. She said she came to demand equal access for all women to the same choices she enjoys.

Tanya Hahnel: We needed to come out and show our support for other people who don’t have access to all the forms of contraception, and, just realizing that we’ve always had the privilege of growing up with the option of abortion, and having a choice, and that wasn’t always the case. And I think it’s time that young people get scared that we’d have to go back to the days of coat hangers, and secrecy, and shame.

Between The Lines: At an event held at the edge of the main rally, women who support making the "morning- after" pill available without a prescription passed out free samples of progesterone in tablets known as Plan B. Two physicians wrote prescriptions of the drug for anyone requesting it. Both those actions are illegal. Lucy Cantib, a family practitioner from Massachusetts, explained why she did it:

Lucy Cantib: We believe that this form of contraception should be available to everyone, over the counter. It’s a safe method, and it’s being prevented from getting to people because this government doesn’t believe women should control their own bodies. Half the pregnancies in this country are unplanned. That means that half the time people are getting pregnant and didn’t intend to, and a good bunch of those people know it pretty soon right afterwards, that they didn’t mean to do that last night, and if we can help all of those people contracept better, that’s going to decrease the number of people who didn’t plan to get pregnant.

Between The Lines: The march’s sponsoring organizations included such usual suspects as the National Organization for Women, NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the Feminist Majority. Also on board were the American Civil Liberties Union, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

The Latina Institute’s Priscilla Padilla described the group’s priorities, as members marched and chanted in Spanish, “The women united will never be defeated.”

Priscilla Padilla: I think our main concern is just doing a lot of networking with other organizations. We’re a small organization, but we’re really strong. We have a lot of energy, but we just need to do more networking with other, bigger organizations and just get the word out there for a lot of immigrant women who don’t have a voice, who are undocumented. The language barrier is a huge problem for Latinas, and we just need to be more adamant about that. Another big concern is getting our voice, like we have a lot of Congress people we’re working close with, just working with them to get more represented judicially and legislatively.

Between The Lines: International delegations of women from 57 countries also attended the march and rally. Speaker after speaker from the stage denounced recent attacks on abortion rights, such as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Both passed under a Republican-dominated Congress and White House. Many Democratic politicians and other speakers urged people to stay active after the rally and bring voters to the polls in November, in order to usher in a new president.

A few hundred anti-abortion protesters lined part of the parade route. One man held a huge banner, praising those who murder abortion providers. One of the rally emcees countered that sentiment by calling from the stage:

EMCEE: I’d like to start by having you give a big round of applause to the abortion providers who are here today, who, despite the violence and harassment, make choice a reality for women. Let’s give ’em a big hand.

Between The Lines: Other protesters held pictures of fetuses at various stages of development, and called on the rally goers to defend the rights of the unborn.

CHANT: End the war on the unborn, declare a truce on the unborn (3 times)

Between The Lines: The marching women and men, responded:

CHANT: Pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die (repeat and fade out).

Between The Lines: Reporting from Between the Lines, I’m Melinda Tuhus in Washington, D.C.

Related links on our website at

“Pro-Choice March Largest in History”

“The March for Women’s Lives: Reflections of a third-generation feminist”

“The Pregnancy Police” and more ....


Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( for the week ending May 7, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

PRINT INFORMATION: For reprint permission, please email

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