5th Annual Walk for Women’s Lives Held in Georgia

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Photograph by Matthew Cardinale

(APN) ATLANTA — “STOP in the NAME of choice, before you take my rights away-ay-ay,” was one of this year’s cheers at the 5th Annual March for Women’s Lives at the Georgia State Capitol.

About 500 Atlanta activists met to rally and march around the Capitol area, under a particularly blazing sun, for a woman’s right to be able to choose to have an abortion.

However, many pro-choice advocates contended the political situation in Georgia has gotten worse, not better in the last year.

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Photograph by Christopher Benson Manica

In one example, a bill which has passed in two different versions in both the Georgia House and Senate would require a doctor to offer an ultrasound to a woman who wants an abortion.

“They keep hammering,” State Sen. Nan Orrock, a Democrat in the Atlanta area, said in her speech. “I’m here to speak to the diehards. This week you’re gonna see a couple examples of the hold the Christian Right has,” on the Legislature, Orrock said.

“I can remember back when it was illegal in the 70’s,” to have an abortion, State Rep. Michele Henson, District 87, Stone Mountain area, told Atlanta Progressive News. “We have a bill going through, a little old ultrasound bill for free ultrasounds. But only in free clinics. There’s no funding for the ultrasounds, there’s no licensure on the clinics.”

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Photograph by Christopher Benson Manica

Orrock and Henson appeared to be the only State legislators in attendance this year.

Other activists told horror stories about Kroger’s grocery store chain and others.

“This week I received a wakeup call. A Kaiser pharmacist told me not to make a habit of this,” when she requested emergency contraception, Nikema Williams said.

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Photograph by Christopher Benson Manica

Mia Mingus, Co-Director of Georgians for Choice, told of additional problems with Kroger not having emergency contraception available in all its stores at all times, even after it pledged to make it available in all stores after an initial scandal where it denied EC to a Georgia customer.

“We ask Kroger today to change their policy and stock emergency contraception at all locations,” Mingus said.

“It has not been easy to talk about what happened to me,” Carrie Baker said. “I requested EC over the counter, and [the pharmacist] says it’s against my religion, she says it’s abortion. I said, give me the medication. The Goddess wants us to have birth control.”

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Photograph by Christopher Benson Manica

RuthE Levy, State Senate candidate for District 32, East Cobb and Sandy Springs, marched in support again this year, apparently the only candidate to do so in an off-election year. Levy, one of the most progressive candidates in the State, recently lost her campaign in the heavily Republican District and has already sent 5,000 mailers to potential 2008 voters.

“Another year, another opportunity to voice our concern about both federal and state policies concerning choice. We’re certainly not running out of issues. They’re doing chip away bills. Free ultrasounds [to] deter women from having abortions; the doctor’s required to offer it to you,” Levy told Atlanta Progressive News.

Levy spoke about young women who are not ready to have children, explaining not having the right to choose would “prevent her from achieving her full potential. Look at the statistics. Most women pregnant under 18 end up on welfare and don’t finish college,” Levy said.

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Photograph by Matthew Cardinale

Georgians for Choice “has accomplished [gains in] building coalitions, broadening the movement,” Mingus said, of the past year.  “Paris [Hatcher] and I are now the new Co-Executive Directors. I feel really backed a movement wants a young woman of color making decisions. We want to shift the movement to talk about all social justice issues.”

The Coalition’s former Director, Errin Vuley, resigned within the last year.

“If we have more low-income women without a livable wage, that will directly affect access to health care, as an example,” Mingus said. “It’s no coincidence we have the same allies,” she adds, explaining the same people that oppose a woman’s right to choose also oppose equality for homosexuals and transgendered and who enact “racist policies,” related to immigration.

Photograph by Matthew Cardinale

Photograph by Matthew Cardinale

The turnout at this year’s march was lower compared to last year. Also, the march route was much shorter, with one participant complaining it seemed like they “walked around the block.” Also, the State police did not block off the entire road, only half of the lanes, in compared to last year.

However, this year’s event had some new features, including a deep breathing exercise led by Sonali Sadquee, where several hundred participants stood chanting in front of the Capitol steps saying, “Peace… around me… Love… around me… above me… below me…”

And the movement continues another year in its long struggle, as Orrock described, the long arc of history, citing Dr. King.

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Photograph by Matthew Cardinale

“Young women do not realize choice can be completely taken away and they need to understand,” Rep. Henson told APN.

State Rep. Bobby Franklin proposes an abortion ban in Georgia every year, Henson said, with 2007 as no exception.

“It’s not happening now, but we need to ensure young women understand it’s important to keep up the fight,” Henson said.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.

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