April 27, 2004
A UMNS Report By Pat Rogers*
(UMNS) — United Methodists were among the hundreds of thousands who
gathered April 25 at the National Mall in Washington to focus attention
on what they say are attacks on women’s reproductive rights.
the “March for Women’s Lives,” the event included women from across the
nation and 60 foreign countries. The daylong event featured speeches by
celebrities, politicians and religious activists.
from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the Women's
Division of the churchwide Board of Global Ministries participate in the
"March for Women's Lives" on the National Mall. |
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice brought together some 70
religious and religiously affiliated organizations for the march,
including contingents from the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society and the Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global
hope is that the march will raise the awareness of people and it will
remind people that women can be trusted with the decisions they need to
make regarding their reproductive health,” said Julie Taylor, a Women’s
Division staff executive.
Methodist Social Principles sanction abortion when an “unacceptable”
pregnancy may cause “devastating damage” to the mother. But the church
opposes partial-birth abortion, a late-term procedure now banned by
legislation President Bush signed into law last November.
law, and other measures aimed at limiting women’s access to
reproductive choice, cause concern, according to Taylor. “Where will we
go? Will there be a list of procedures you can’t do and a list of
procedures you can?” she asked.
|The “March For Women’s Lives” included women from across the nation and 60 foreign countries.|
fears that more and more doctors and pharmacists are either unwilling
or unable to provide information on reproductive health care. “Now, when
doctors are being trained, they can opt out of any kind of an abortion
procedure on women so that they don’t learn how to do the procedures at
all,” Taylor explained.
marchers gathered under an overcast sky on the National Mall near the
Washington Monument, walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and then headed
back to the mall near the Capitol.
been 10 years since pro-choice organizers last held such a march in
Washington, and organizers say this year’s turnout far exceeded the last
march. The Associated Press cited police sources who estimated the
crowd at between 500,000 and 800,000.
number included a much smaller group protesting the march. A member of
that group carried a sign that said “Baby Killers” and heckled marchers
with a bullhorn as they walked by.
Rev. Paul Stallsworth, a United Methodist pastor, attended the march as
an abortion opponent. “Abortion is something to be resisted, and the
unborn child is to be defended and protected as well as his or her
mother,” he said.
|Police estimated the crowd at the "March for Women's Lives" at between 500,000 and 800,000.|
who is also the editor and president of Lifewatch, an anti-abortion
publication, described the stance of many at the march as “rigid,
unqualified and unyielding” and claimed they were in favor of abortion
for any reason or at any stage of pregnancy.
marchers appreciated the chance to be in solidarity with women from all
walks of life. “I like the fact that there are women who have made it
to the top and could be doing a million different things right now, but
instead they’ve come here and they are with us in fighting for what they
believe in,” said Beth Preston, 27, who came to the march from
Snyder, 20, drove from Colorado with two friends to attend the march.
As many in the crowd, she wanted to send a message to politicians intent
on restricting abortion-rights laws. “We believe we women should have
the decisions over our own bodies, not the government,” she said.
at the march were unhappy with the policies of the Bush administration.
“Anybody but Bush,” said Tracy Oswald, 43. “Bush is catering to the
religious right on the abortion issue and just about everything else.”
the overwhelming focus was on reproductive rights, there was a host of
special-interest groups on the mall, including those supporting
separation of church and state, environmental groups and even a small
number of Communist Party supporters.
expected, there was only a smattering of men in the crowd. Dusting
Kowalski, 30, drove 10 hours from Lansing, Mich., to attend. “This is a
much larger issue than a man-versus-women thing. For me, it is an issue
of state control, how much the state controls what we as people can do
with our bodies,” Kowalski said.
*Rogers is a UMNS correspondent based in Washington.
News media contact: Linda Bloom (646)369-3759