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MIT sends 400 to pro-choice march

By David P. Hamilton

"It has been said of this generation that because many of our battles have already been fought for us, we don't appreciate what we have, we don't care. That is not what I believe, because that is not what I see.

"What I see here today are delegations from over 400 colleges and high schools, representing a generation that will not let its rights be rolled back, a generation that does care about the battles already won."

Those were the words of Elizabeth Ling '89 as she stood last Sunday on the steps of the US Capitol and addressed the March on Washington for Women's Rights. Ling was one of nearly 400 MIT students -- more than a third of them men, by some estimates -- who attended the rally, which was sponsored by the National Organization for Women.

Ling, who held a fall internship with the Boston chapter of NOW, said she was asked to address the rally in early March, several weeks after she held a local press conference in which she represented college students. She was the only student representative to speak for the estimated 500 universities and high schools that sent representatives to the march.

The march was one of the largest marches on Washington ever held, with over 300,000 people in attendance, according to US Park Police estimates. NOW speakers estimated the crowd at 600,000.

Marchers assembled at the Washington Monument and proceeded down Constitution Avenue to the Capitol, where a series of speakers, including Ling, addressed the assembled crowd.

The march was originally planned around the theme of the Equal Rights Amendment, but the rise of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, combined with a nearing Supreme Court case that may restrict or overturn its 1973 decision legalizing abortion, led the NOW organizers to shift the its focus to abortion rights.

"The recent past has seen a rise in the anti-abortionists in terms of how loud they are, rather than their actual strength," said Rebecca Kaplan '92, member of the Association of Women Students, which organized the MIT contingent.

AWS Coordinator Michelle Bush '91 added, "We had to show our strength and our numbers."

"Clearly, it's significant that we had ten times the people as the anti-abortions did," Bush continued. She referred to an anti-abortion rally held in Washington in late January, which was estimated at 65,000 people.

"I think the march reaffirmed America's commitment to legal, safe abortion," Bush said.

AWS, a feminist group revived in January in response to news of the march, arranged transportation for five busloads of MIT students who traveled with a Boston NOW bus caravan. Bush said that about 200 other MIT students rode in private cars or took airline shuttles to Washington for the march.

AWS was also able to subsidize nearly fifty students who found it difficult to pay for the $40 bus tickets, Bush said. Money for the subsidies came from sales of T-shirts and contributions from three academic departments, faculty and administration members, and organizations such as the Association of MIT Alumnae, the Graduate Student Council, and the Undergraduate Association.

"We found ourselves really surprised by the support we received," Jessica Marcus '89, another AWS coordinator, said.

"People kept calling up and we had no room for them," Bush added.

Bush said she first heard of the planning for the march last December while a member of the Women's Rap Group, a precursor of AWS.

After attending a NOW meeting for college mobilization, Bush and other rap group members petitioned the UA Finance Board for funding and restarted AWS in January. Immediately thereafter, AWS began preparations for the march, which included postering, organizing transportation, and designing a T-shirt for sale.

I can include some dirt about the T-shirt design, which was apparently modified to the current disgust of the original designer. (She called it a `bastardized' design.) Let me know. -dph