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4/24/2004

Utahns to join D.C. women's rights march ; Sunday: Demonstrators protest Bush policies they say limit reproductive rights and health

April 24, 2004

The Salt Lake Tribune
BYLINE: Brooke Adams , The Salt Lake Tribune

More than three decades ago Jill Sheinberg marched down Madison Avenue, pregnant with her first child, to take a stand for women's rights.

That child is grown and now there are grandchildren yet the vision of equality is elusive, which is why Sheinberg will join dozens of Utahns in Sunday's March for Women's Lives in Washington.

"It was a no-brainer," said Sheinberg, 61, of Park City. "I really believe that our society right now is backtracking on its treatment of women."

The march is expected to draw up to 1 million people upset by what they see as the Bush administration's assault on women's reproductive rights and health, both here and abroad.

Sponsors of the march are Black Women's Health Imperative; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; National Organization for Women; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; NARAL Pro-Choice America; ACLU; and Feminist Majority. Hundreds of other groups are co-sponsoring the event, from Bitch magazine to the National Education Association.

The NEA support has drawn the ire of Parents for Choice in Education, a Utah group, which has asked the Utah Education Association to condemn its umbrella organization's involvement.

Marchers will pass the White House on their way to the National Mall, where they will hear from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, retired Episcopal Bishop Barbara Harris, actress Susan Sarandon, singer Ani DiFranco and others.

Anti-abortion groups such as Operation Rescue are planning their own, small-scale demonstration during Sunday's event.

Women's-rights organizers hope participants channel their unhappiness with current policies into votes this fall and ongoing activism in the future.

Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that assured U.S. women the right to an abortion, is hanging by a thread, according to NOW President Kim Gandy. Women's access to choice and privacy is being eroded by such laws as the Unborn Victims of Violence and Partial-Birth Abortion Ban acts, organizers say.

And "anti-women" foreign policies that prohibit use of U.S. family-planning funds for abortion-related services jeopardize the health of women around the world, organizers say.

"Women's rights have been taken away big time. All you have to do is look in our paper to see it," said longtime women's-rights activist Suzanne Goldsmith on Wednesday.

That day's Salt Lake Tribune front page carried a story about University Hospital's decision to no longer perform abortions, even if a fetus will not survive birth, to avoid violating a new law adopted by the 2004 Legislature.

Such acts show that "women do not have the right to make decisions that are best for them," said Goldsmith, 73, who will walk Sunday with a daughter and granddaughter.

Kim Zarkin said another Utah news event -- prosecution of Melissa Ann Rowland on a murder charge (later dropped) after she refused a C-section that could have saved one of her unborn twins -- put her over the edge and onto a Washington-bound plane.

"It was one of those things where I went, 'I can't do this anymore,' " said Zarkin, a communications professor at Westminster College. "Women will become nothing but incubators subject to federal law."

brooke@sltrib.com