Rally in Fort Lauderdale part of national movement in support of women’s rights

Posted on April 28, 2012

Orlando Sentinel, April 28, 2012 by Erika Pesantes

FORT LAUDERDALE — Feminists who fought for women’s rights in the 1960s and ’70s joined a new generation Saturday and said the fight continues.

Unite Against the War on Women, a grassroots group that has steadily gained momentum since its founding in February, has organized rallies nationwide — including one in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday — in defense of women’s rights and in opposition to any legislation that would curtail those rights.

Supporters — both male and female — waved signs in front of the federal courthouse on Broward Boulevard: “Pro-woman, Pro-choice, Pro-child”; “Keep Abortion Legal”; “Stop Racism Now.”

Two other rallies were conducted Saturday in Florida, one in Tallahassee and the other in Orlando.


“Our rights, our health, our very existence is under attack,” said Meredith Ockman, president of the National Organization for Women’s Palm Beach County chapter. The movement Saturday was non-partisan, she said.

“The whole point is to fight the war on women with our allies,” Ockman said.

Those allies included men like Matthew McWatters, legislative director for NOW in Palm Beach County.

He said he stood in support of women and on behalf of his mother, grandmother and 7-year-old niece, Kayla.

“I want her to grow up in a world where she’s in a level playing field with someone who is a man,” he said.

Maggie Davidson, president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Northeast Broward, wondered, “Where do you start?” before naming issues such as abortion rights and contraceptive use that revolve around women’s “control of their bodies.”

Without that control, women fall back economically — further widening the existing pay disparity between the sexes, Davidson said.

“Anything that hurts one woman hurts all of us,” she said.

She hoped the rally would raise awareness, encourage women and women’s advocates to run for office and vote.

In 2010, about 250,000 registered women voters did not cast their ballots, Davidson said.

“When I started in the ’60s, this is what I was fighting for,” said Joanne Sterner, president of Broward County’s NOW chapter. “It’s a control issue. I believe women are getting too powerful and they [men] just can’t handle it.

“I was born a feminist, and I will continue to be a feminist until I die,” she said.

Reba Cutler, 15, of Boca Raton, said she was beginning to realize that women’s rights were being compromised. She accompanied her mother, Debbie Cutler, to the rally Saturday.

“It’s really important to show people that we are equally as powerful, because we are humans and are all the same on the inside,” Reba said.

Carly Block, 18, just registered to vote two weeks ago at her school, Spanish River High in Boca Raton. “Now I know what I’m voting for. Now I’m more aware,” she said, “Now I know it can make a difference.”

An exasperated Patti Lynn, of Tamarac, waved her sign at passing motorists. “This is what our country’s going through. It’s going backward,” she said. “It’s crazy… men making decisions on women’s reproductive rights is very silly.”