PA: Unite Against War on Women targets women’s rights with rally at Capitol

Posted on April 28, 2012, April 28, 2012 by Sue Gleiter

Some of them pounded plastic buckets with drum sticks. Others danced to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

They carried homemade signs emblazoned with messages such as “Gov. Corbett Open Your Eyes. Start Packing” and “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby and We’re Not Going Back.”

Unite Against the War on Women Rally
Protestors take part Saturday in the Unite Against the War on Women Rally held on the front steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg. The event was part of marches and rallies in state capitals and major U.S. cities in defense of women’s rights. JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News

About 300 people, a mostly female audience, gathered on the state Capitol steps for four hours today as part of a national grassroots movement called United Against the War on Women.

Similar rallies were sponsored around the country in most of the 50 states from Wisconsin, to Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Calif.

The rallies were held as a show of strength against recent threats to women’s rights on issues ranging from from reproductive to economic and human rights.

“We can’t sit back and take it anymore. We can’t sit back and allow them to erode our lives,” said Julia Ramsey, president of Pennsylvania NOW.

Ramsey, one of about two dozen speakers at the Harrisburg rally, encouraged women in the crowd to speak to their female friends and family and spread the message about fighting back.

“This is a war against us and it affects all of us,” she said.

Wendy Mizenko of Hanover attended the rally with a group of about 20 women from the York-Gettysburg area. She participated in the women’s movement in the 1970s.

“I’m here with all the other women for all the outrageous things happening to women. I can’t believe we are reliving this,” Mizenko said.

Those passing legislation don’t even understand it affects many parts of women’s lives from economic issues to their marriages and relationships with their children, she said.

“It’s every aspect revolving around this. You can’t take it away. It’s hurting everything,” Mizenko added.

Janina Faunce-Holzinger of Allentown came with her boyfriend, Joseph Hobbs of Allentown and her mother, Brooke Faunce of Everett and said she wanted to support the war on women.

She uses Planned Parenthood and specifically thinks women she have access to birth control and have control over reproductive rights.

“I don’t know why there has been this huge push making laws against women. It feels like a distraction from real issues like the economy,” Faunce-Holzinger said.

Organizers were hoping about 1,000 people would attend the local rally but a threat of showers and temperatures in the 40s might have had something to do with that.

The national Unite Against the War on Women was organized over Facebook in February by two women, Karen Teegarden of Michigan and Desiree Jordan of New York.

They had been discussing for more than a year how they believed legislation in this country was targeting women’s rights, everything from reproductive to voting and human rights issues. The organization has grown to more than 23,000 Facebook members representing groups in almost every state.

Rallies around the country Saturday brought out well-known women such as comedienne Sarah Silverman; actresses Susan Sarandon and Martha Plimpton; Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women; Planned Parenthood, authors, activists and legislators.

One of the speakers in Harrisburg was Kate Michelman, former president of the National Abortion Rights Action League and one-time executive director of Planned Parenthood in Harrisburg.

“This is just the beginning of your new life as activists,” she said, calling it the “silent war on women.” “It’s time for us to re-engage on all levels.”

Michelman said women have been on a long journey since they earned the right to vote through women’s suffrage but they have made progress. She suggested women in the crowd host house parties and make their voices known to their legislators.

“We are at a backlash point and we just need to get out there,” she said.

Many view the movement as largely supported by Democrats to cast the Republican as the party against women.

“Actually, it is already an election year issue. I can’t believe Republicans don’t realize they have already lost a couple of battles here,” said Maggie Abbott Fowler of Gettysburg.

She noted she was proud five Republican women in the U.S. Senate last week did vote to extend the Violence Against Women Act but she was disappointed by the Republican men who voted against it. The Senate voted 68 to 31 to pass the bill.

“Women’s rights are not partisan,” she said.

State Rep. Sue Helm, R-Susquehanna Twp., who didn’t participate in the rally, said she thinks women’s rights cross both parties.

“I think they have made too much of this honestly,” she said.

Helm said she changed her mind regarding a provision in a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion after a remark made last month by Gov. Tom Corbett.

The governor came under fire after saying “You just have to close your eyes as long as it’s on the exterior, not interior” in regards to women viewing the ultrasounds. His spokesman said the governor’s comments were taken out of context.

“When the governor opened his mouth and said ‘Look away,” I said I think our governor is a good governor, but in this case I need to jump off of this bill,” Helm said.