NE: ‘War on women’ protesters single out Johanns, Heineman

Posted on April 28, 2012

Journal Star, April 28, 2012 by MICHAEL BAMESBERGER

To Susan Councell, you can call “the war on women” whatever you want.

“It doesn’t matter how people want to package what’s happening to women in this country,” she said. “We just refuse to accept it.”

That was the sentiment of several dozen protesters who held signs and chanted as cars drove by at the Capitol on Saturday afternoon as part of a national campaign sponsored by the group Unite Against the War on Women, which organized demonstrations Saturday at state capitols and major cities across the country.

The events highlight a theme of the presidential election, as Democrats accuse some Republicans of propagating a war on women.

The topic that concerned protesters in Lincoln ranged from state legislation to the rhetoric of pundits on television.

One such issue was the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the Senate on Thursday despite opposition from some Republicans to new provisions that would add protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered people, as well as raise the cap on visas granted to abused legal and illegal immigrants.

“Out of the 31 nay votes, our own Senator (Mike) Johanns voted against it,” said Councell, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event.

Other attendees focused strictly on Nebraska issues.

“For me, it’s the 20-week law for abortion,” said Kristin Judkins, who stood alongside her daughter.

In Nebraska, abortions are only allowed within 20 weeks of conception — a law shouldered on the disputed premise that fetuses can feel pain.

Judkins said the issue resonated with her after she read about a Grand Island mother who was denied the ability to end her non-viable pregnancy because of the law.

“Before that, I didn’t know Nebraska had that law,” she said. “It absolutely infuriated me.”

Pat Heliger, 62, drove from Omaha on Saturday to participate in her first-ever rally.

She was compelled by a laundry list of issues — from equal pay for women to Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto of a bill to provide prenatal care coverage for a group including about 870 undocumented immigrants.

The Legislature overrode the veto and the bill was passed into law, but Heliger remained outraged by Heineman’s action.

“Enough is enough,” she said.

Gordon Granberg clutched a homemade sign displaying a now-famous quote uttered by Ann Romney earlier this month: “We have to respect women in all the choices they make.”

The line resonated with Granberg in the wake of the controversy over a tweet alleging the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”

“Women’s rights are not limited to one political party,” Granberg said.

Councell said the protest is a visible way to show politicians that Nebraskans are unhappy with the way some legislation and political activities affect women.

“This is just the beginning,” Councell said. “This is an election year. If we’re going to get our voices heard, we can’t give up.”