Carrying signs that read “Real sex ed. saves lives”
and “Who decides? It’s your choice not theirs,” a
group of University students joined more than one million women in
Washington D.C on April 25 for what became the largest
women’s rights rally in the nation’s capitol to
date.

A number of human rights and women’s groups sponsored the
“March for Women’s Lives,” including the American
Civil Liberties Union, National Organization for Women, and Planned
Parenthood Federation of America.

Organizers said they wanted the march to send a message to
President Bush about the country’s support of the
reproductive rights of women.

Former chair of the Michigan Student Assembly’s
Women’s Issues Commission Ashwini Hardikar, along with
others, initiated the idea for a University trip to the capitol
after gauging student interest on campus.

Nearly 200 University students gathered outside the Michigan
Union on Saturday evening and took four buses to Washington D.C.
They reached the National Mall the following morning and
participated in the four hour-long march.

“The experience at the march was really incredible,”
said Hardikar, an RC sophomore. “It was really, really
powerful for me.”

Engineering sophomore Cori White is a Washington D.C resident
and attended the rally with friends from other colleges. She was
inspired to attend because her friend’s mother is involved
with Planned Parenthood — an organization that promotes
reproductive self-determination.

“I have always thought that choice is an important right
for a woman. You don’t have to make that choice if you
don’t want to, but it should be available,” she
said.

White said she arrived at the National Mall to find it packed
with people and speakers whose images were projected on TV
screens.

“We walked around D.C — sort of around the downtown
area. There was a designated spot for people opposed to the march.
There was police but no problems,” she said.

Participants of the morning march walked for two miles and
returned to their original point, where an afternoon rally began,
headed by celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg. Speakers at the
event warned the current administration that their anti-abortion
policies would cost them the election in the fall.

In April, President Bush granted a victory to the pro-life side
by signing the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The law gives human
rights to embryos and fetuses so that if a crime such as murder is
committed against a pregnant mother, both the mother and the unborn
child are considered victims.

Pro-choice groups fear that giving human rights to embryos and
fetuses might advance the cause of those who don’t support
abortion.

Hardikar said the goal the marchers had set out with had been
achieved to some extent.

“It was a good first step,” she said. “I was
impressed with the number of young women and the number of men that
showed up to support.”

Pro-life protestors at the march held signs discouraging women
from having abortions, often citing personal regrettable
experiences.

A Zogby poll taken in December 2003 showed that the majority of
Americans are pro-life. In the 18 to 29 year old age range, 52
percent of those polled said they were pro-life.

Nonetheless, marches called for the rights of women and the end
of government interference in the lives of women.

“The government does not belong in our bedrooms. It does
not belong in our doctors’ offices,” said Anthony
Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Our fundamental
right to privacy is under serious attack by this
government.”

University students were able to participate in the march
through the MSA’s funding help as well as their own
fundraising efforts.

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