Saturday’s Rally for Reproductive Rights was a success! About 70 people attended in total, standing in the hot sun to listen to several local activists speak, and a sizable contingent broke off to march the length of Church Street, chanting radical slogans.
Photo courtesy of Lorin Duckman
We would like to thank everyone who came to the rally and who helped make it possible!
First of all, probably the most important message from the speakers at the Rally was about the troubles being created for Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire. Three Republican members of New Hampshire’s five-member executive council voted not to renew the State’s contract with Planned Parenthood. $1.8 million dollars will not be given to PP to provide contraceptive services, cancer screenings, and basic pelvic exams, including pap smears (and no, you really can’t get pap smears at Walgreen’s). So far, over 500 people have been denied access to subsidized prescriptions, including birth control prescriptions, since the vote took effect on July 1. We, and Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom (VARF) are calling for anyone who knows someone in New Hampshire to give that person a call, tell them about the situation, and ask them to call their legislator to voice their opposition to this irrational attack on women’s health. New Hampshire is on the verge of losing over $1 million in federal funding for women and children’s health care. One executive councilor, Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester, indicated that he did not support funding access to contraception at all. In another episode revealing the essential “pro-life” stance as being more anti-sex and anti-woman than pro-anyone’s actual life, he explained his reasoning by saying, “If they want to have a good time, why not let them pay for it?”
Actions to take:
CALL A FRIEND IN NH! Tell them to call their legislator and say that they’re unhappy with access to health care for poor women and men being held hostage to the GOP’s anti-sex politics.
Also, consider writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper in New Hampshire.
Consider donating to Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom! Their mission is to help women who can’t afford it get access to reproductive health care, and they are aiding in the fight to help get needed medications to women who are currently cut off. They have basically no overhead, and ALL donations go to helping women in need.
And of COURSE! Donate to Planned Parenthood!
So, what happened at the rally? Well, after we sorted a few difficulties getting power for the sound system, we kicked off a late but fiery start with speeches from a couple of FEDUPVermont members. It would be great to do a more in-depth summary of everything that was said. A few key themes that emerged: first, it’s time to agitate for full equality. Just like any other marginalized group, women have only gained tangible rights when they stood up and made a ruckus. It’s time to start raising a ruckus again. Many women still face difficulties accessing abortion in Vermont. Even though there are no legal restrictions on abortion in Vermont, there are no medical professionals in Vermont who will perform abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, so those who need later-term abortions must travel to other states to get them, which can be prohibitively expensive. It should be emphasized, of course, that VARF does excellent work in trying to raise funds to help women in such situations. Another important theme that emerged is that the pro-choice movement is, in fact, sitting on the alleged “common ground” that politicians like to talk about: empirical evidence shows that the countries with the lowest abortion rates are also the ones with the fewest restrictions on abortion and, of course, universal health care. The anti-choice movement could easily achieve a near-zero abortion rate, we already know how to do that. But doing so would require them to give up trying to punish women for what they deem “immoral” sexual behavior — and the label “immoral” is of course based on a narrow interpretation of a Christian faith that is not shared by all Americans. Kesha Ram put out the call for citizens to hold politicians’ feet to the fire, and for more women to get involved in politics.
Here are the speakers, in order of appearance:
Hayley Mason- local community activist, member of Fed Up Vermont and the Vermont Worker’s Center.
Peggy Luhrs- longtime community activist, campaigned for legal abortion in Vermont in the 70s. Member of Fed Up Vermont andWILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom)
Val Vass- Director of Marketing and Communications for Planned Parenthood Northeast Region
April Howard- Board member of VARF (Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom)
Solvei Blue- brand new community activist & outspoken atheist
Dr. Tina D’Amato- A family medicine practitioner whose residency at UMass Boston gave her experience in all aspects of reproductive health.
Kesha Ram- Vermont State Legislator from Burlington who also works at Women Helping Battered Women
Tristin Adie- longtime women’s rights activist, a socialist, and a member of Fed Up Vermont.
If you know of other news coverage, do please leave us a link in the comments! Thanks again to everyone who came, and to those who couldn’t make it but supported the effort in other ways. We couldn’t have done it without you, and if you want to help make these sorts of events continue to happen, please join us at our weekly meetings, Sundays at 5 pm at Cafe Maglianero at 47 Maple St. in Burlington.