Students Gather in DC to Support Abortion Rights

Pro-choice student leaders from around the country attended a speak-out on abortion rights this morning in Washington, DC, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The over 300 students were attending a student leadership conference sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Never Go Back campaign. Students listened to impassioned speeches on women’s and civil rights by Congressional leaders Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), as well as from women’s rights leaders Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF); Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW); and Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO). Donna Brazile, political organizer and former campaign manager for Al Gore, closed the morning’s events, saying of the right to abortion that “we are not going back. We are never going back. We’re not going to give up this freedom.”

Burk underscored the new anti-choice strategy she has seen in the media. In three different debates, anti-abortion proponents claimed that they did not believe Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, would be overturned. “They’re trying to make us complacent,” Burk said. Sen. Boxer vowed to lead a filibuster on any Supreme Court nominee who would not uphold a woman’s right to choose. “This choice has to be made by the woman, her doctor, her god, and whoever else she chooses,” said Boxer. “The life and health of the woman must come always first.”

Katherine Minarik, director of FMF’s campus program, told the story of her sister’s abortionÑa decision she says her sister does not regret today, and a decision that was not made lightly. Minarik ended with a call to action for the student leaders, saying “This is about our lives and our sister’s lives, and these lives are not up for debate.” Other speakers touched on the same issue, recalling days when women resorted to illegal and unsafe abortions. Norton addressed the students, saying, “In [my] generation, back-alley abortions were the reality. In your generation, back-alley abortions could become a throwback reality.”

Students attending the conference were from 33 states and the District of Columbia. Yesterday, they attended a series of workshops and talks by women’s rights leaders, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Kate Michelman, Eleanor Smeal, and others. “I know the fight for women’s rights is an uphill battle,” Smeal said. “But you will see women’s equality in your lifetime. I know you will.”


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