Ireland Urges Students to MarchBy Vinu G. Ipe
Patricia Ireland, the president of the National Organization of Women, spoke to a crowded 26-100 Sunday night as part of her tour through Massachusetts to galvanize support for NOW's national abortion rights campaign and the April 5 March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C.
Ireland took the occasion of NOW's silver anniversary to note the progress made in women's issues over the past 25 years. "When I first came out of high school and when I was a young adult, birth control was illegal in some states, even for married couples. People actually argued with me that women didn't actually need equal pay for equal work. Nowadays even the most conservative politicians speak of equal pay for equal work. In 1972, child care was a `commie plot.' Now, even the conservatives support child care," Ireland said.
"Abortion was illegal when I was a young adult in all but four states. I lived through that period. I know women who were injured because of it. My own mother, who had a series of miscarriages after I was born, was denied medication because the doctors feared that they might have performed an abortion," she continued.
Ireland told an estimated 400 listeners from around the Boston area that the march in Washington will have an impact on the future of women's rights in general. "I'll give you an idea of what a difference we can make when we fight back. Over the years, we strengthened the equal opportunity laws [and] passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Acts. We got a law passed requiring pregnancy to be treated as a temporary disability for work purposes. In 1973 we gained the right to control our bodies when the Supreme Court recognized the right to abortion, and they had earlier recognized the right to birth control," Ireland said.
However, Ireland was not optimistic about the present Supreme Court's commitment to women's rights. "While we have been fighting as hard as we can to hold on to the rights we have gained, right now we have a very, very serious threat to abortion and our reproductive rights. I am afraid that people think that the threat to abortion is only now materializing. But the reality is that 44 million women in this country have already lost their abortion rights -- any woman who depends on federal government funds for help with health insurance has basically lost her rights," she said.
In an effort to encourage students to become more active, Ireland said, "On April 5, we need you for the most massive march Washington has ever seen. We're going to say `No!' to this administration, `No!' to the loss of abortion rights, `No!' to the loss of Medicaid funding, and we're going to say `No!' to the bullies at the clinic, and `No!' to the back alley butchers.
"In addition to the march on April 5, we are engaging in a major campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. So the next time the Supreme Court tries to limit abortion rights further, they will be met by a very serious response by a grass-roots campaign," Ireland said.
Ireland ended her speech with a quotation from Sojourner Truth: If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, then these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again.