Global Policy Forum

Over One Million March for Women's Rights


By Joel Stonington

April 2004

In what is being called the largest march in US history, over one million people marched in front of the White House to advocate for abortion rights, reproductive rights, women's right to choose, and social justice.

The widely diverse marchers of different colors, nationalities, sexualities, and social classes held up thousands of signs, waved banners, and chanted while marching through the streets of Washington. Signs read, "Who decides?" and "Keep Abortion Legal," while others took a slightly more creative route with slogans such as, "Abort Bush in 2004," "Ms. President," "Why do social conservatives always want to get in your pants?" and "If you cut off my reproductive rights can I cut off yours?" with a small picture of scissors.

Dozens of politicians, actors, musicians, politicians, labor leaders, and others spoke before and after the march to a sea of people stretched from the Washington Monument to the Capitol Building. Senator Hillary Clinton, actor Ashley Judd, former Secretary of state Madeline Albright, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and musicians such as the Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, and Moby all rallied the waves of cheering people.

Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms Magazine, said, "We are here out of love. Reproductive health is a fundamental right like freedom of speech." However, the march was also highly partisan, with speakers urging people to vote George W. Bush out of office in November. Linda Carter, who played Wonder Woman in the 1970s television series, asked the crowd, "What do you think Wonder Woman would say? I think she would say, 'Go back to Texas!'"

The speakers were alternately humorous and somber, recognizing the pain and difficulty of abortions, especially illegal abortions in other countries, and speaking about the need to keep abortion legal for the health of women. Actor Whoopi Goldberg, at one point, held up a coat hanger to a few moments of silence, "This was choice," she said. To which followed resounding cries of, "never again."

The focus of the march was not just on abortion rights, significant attention was also paid to social issues such as education, after school daycare, poverty, and healthcare for women. Said Goldberg, "Explain to me how, if you don't have family planning, you can bitch about abortion."

A few hundred counter protesters attended the march, holding up signs reading, "Turn from sin," and "Go to church." While some marchers engaged the counter protesters with pleas such as, "Bush lies to you" and "Go to hell yourself." For the most part, the decibel level of chanting was merely increased the volume of talking and chanting as a million people walked slowly by.

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