300 from MIT join rally in Washington
By Andrea Lamberti
Approximately 300 MIT students joined 150,000 demonstrators who rallied in Washington, DC, on Sunday to address legislators, the president and the public for abortion rights. The Lincoln Memorial rally was part of the nation-wide "Mobilize for Women's Lives," coordinated by the National Organization for Women to emphasize the voting power of pro-choice voters.
Pro-choice events occurred all over the country on Sunday, from Kennebunkport, ME, to San Francisco, CA, making the mobilization the largest simultaneous demonstration in the United States' history.
Speeches emphasized the last week's elections in New York City, New Jersey, and Virginia. In each of these elections, the winner was decidedly pro-choice. Speakers encouraged voters to continue this trend of evaluating candidates based on their stance on reproductive rights.
The rally was timed to address the nation before the Supreme Court considers three abortion-related cases later this fall. Molly Yard, president of NOW and master of ceremonies of the rally, vowed to President Bush "No! We will not obey your dictates!"
Yard also said in a press release that one of the goals of the rally was to build on the legislative and electoral victories since the Webster decision, and to channel the outrage against President Bush's recent vetoes of bills involving Medicaid funding for abortion.
A memorial to women whose lives were lost to unsafe and illegal abortions was erected in front of the Washington Monument. A Sunday-morning dedication ceremony remembered these women.
Activists who did not participate in the Washington rally because of other pro-choice commitments were recognized vocally by Yard. Ann Richards, state treasurer of Texas, did not go to Washington because she began the day in Kennebunkport and then traveled to Austin, TX, to participate in a rally on the capitol steps.
Another focus of the rally was the five women gubernatorial candidates for elections in 1990. Three of the five candidates spoke at the Lincoln Memorial, including Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy, former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, and Iowa Lt. Gov. Joann Zimmerman.
Feinstein said that politicians "who try to outlaw legal abortion" should be outlawed, and asserted that women as governors was the first step toward achieving major victories for women's rights, such as the right to a legal, safe, funded abortion.
US Sen. Alan Cranston
(D-CA) supported electing women to public office and emphasized abortion as a primary issue for voters. "While the other side is out bombing clinics, we'll be electing candidates," he said. Cranston also told voters to encourage legislators to become
co-sponsors of the Freedom of Choice Act of 1989. Cranston ended his speech urging people "to turn the heat up across the nation" for the pro-choice movement.
Etienne-Emile Baulieu, developer of the French abortion pill RU-486 which is illegal in the United States, was one of three doctors to speak at the rally. Kenneth Edelin, chairman of the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who was once prosecuted for performing a late-term abortion, and Warren Hern of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, CO, also spoke.
Students from over 400 colleges and universities flocked to Washington for the rally. University banners lined the reflecting pool and crowded the steps in front of the memorial. Students came from all over the country. Some drove to Washington from as far away as Iowa, a 20-hour drive, and others flew in from the west coast.
Over 10 high schools sent representatives, and approximately 15 Catholic colleges and universities sent students.
300 students attend rally
Approximately 300 people from the MIT community attended the rally, according to Michelle Bush '91, president of the Association for Women Students. AWS, a feminist group revived last January in response to the March on Washington in April, rented three buses to provide transportation to Washington for 150 people. Bush estimated that approximately 150 more people rode to Washington in private cars, although there "was no way of knowing [how many people] drove" to the rally, she said.
A small rally was held on the steps of the Stratton Student Center Saturday evening as a "way to send off the buses," Bush said.
AWS received "tremendous" financial rally support from faculty members, who donated over $1200, and other people who could not attend the rally but wanted to support the event, Bush said. "We gave out about $1400 in subsidies to people who otherwise could not go," Bush added. AWS had not expected to receive that much financial support; "we didn't think it would be over $1000," Bush said.
Many students were impressed with the turnout for the rally, and those who had never been to an event of that size before were a bit overwhelmed by the crowd. One MIT student said "it's great. There's zillions of people here. It's really good to see all these people out there." Sally Grant W'93 said "I feel totally overwhelmed." Grant said that approximately 500 Wellesley students came to the rally.
The Progressive Student Network (a multi-issue, radical student network) organized a march in front of the Supreme Court steps Sunday afternoon, shortly before the Lincoln Memorial rally ended. The aim of the student demonstration was to spread a banner reading "Building condemned for insensitivity to women" on the steps of the Supreme Court.
The PSN did not display the banner, however, because "a cordon of about 50 police officers standing shoulder to shoulder" with billy clubs were lined up across the entire width of the steps, according to AWS Treasurer Rebecca Kaplan '92. PSN and other marchers responded by lining up in front of the steps, held up a banner and read a statement that condemned the court and called for activism. No arrests were made, and no serious violent confrontations took place, Kaplan said.
The largest pro-life response to the Washington rally activities was coordinated by The American Coalition for Life. The pro-life group planted 4400 crosses and Jewish stars on the lawn in front of the White House, as a silent protest to abortion and the rally. The stars and crosses were meant to represent the lives lost to abortion each day. Approximately 50 people helped to plant the crosses the morning of the rally, according to Barbara Plating, legislative director of the ACL.