LOS ANGELES – The women’s rights movement was alive and well on Westside Saturday when two rallies got hundreds of people raising signs, marching and singing for women’s rights in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
At around 11:30 am, the West Hollywood Women’s March was turning its last corner back towards the city’s park of the same name when a lone man began to disturb the stragglers. Abortion, he said, was murder, and reproductive rights were all about “killing small babies”.
West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne was leading the last of the protesters through the crosswalk and down the sidewalk when she heard this.
As she and the other demonstrators left, the heckler was drowned out by the chants.
The WeHo Women’s March – which that year focused on women’s rights to procreation and abortion – was one of nearly two dozen that took place across Southland on October 2nd. With only a few hundred participants, he was from downtown Los. dwarfed the Angeles march, which expected more than 20,000 visitors – but the people at the West Hollywood march were just as passionate as their downtown counterparts.
About a dozen speakers attended the march, including actress Patricia Arquette, a handful of West Hollywood officials, Rep. Richard Bloom, Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich, and activist Sandra Fluke.
“We were very, very excited to attend and very excited about our speakers,” said West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, who organized the event to ensure that people who for various reasons weren’t ready or unable to make it largest march in the region. “And I know people from West Hollywood – they show up,” Master said.
Some, like Deb Dawson, even showed up from Ventura County. Dawson, who appeared at the rally in an AUNTIFA – Aunties Against Fascism shirt, was there to support her niece and her niece’s baby daughter.
“I’ve fought and I have to fight for her … and yeah, it’s just exhausting,” Dawson said. Their concern is that conservative officials – like those in Texas who passed Senate Law No. 8 Restricting Abortion – are trying to push America towards a more theocratic state.
Shyne knows theocratic rule – she is an Iranian immigrant whose family emigrated to the USA shortly after the Iranian revolution in her youth. When she came out as a lesbian in high school, she found it was a tough struggle to gain acceptance, thanks largely to religious conservatism.
“Religion is really a driving force behind these conservative laws … we have extremist Republicans in power now, and they really bow to religious ideologies,” Shyne said.
She acknowledged that in some ways the event preached to the choir.
“But what we have to do is take this activism to other states,” Shyne said. She noted that in safe liberal states like California, Democrats invested money in races across the country, and she made personal phone calls for officials elsewhere. “When I came out, it was all about conversation … it was a long time before my family moved from denial to tolerance to acceptance. When I turned 40, they began to stand up for my community – because of my courage and my patience with them to just have conversations. “
But sometimes conversations are not enough.
The Beverly Hills Women’s March event, which was more of a rally with signs near City Hall, was largely peaceful. But around 2:30 a.m. someone heckled through the crowd shouting nicknames.
Mary Jane Abare, 80, yelled at him; the man whirled to her, told her to shut up, and walked over to her. Abare stepped forward, and although he faced her, she stared up defiantly. After a moment the man sneered away. Abare was cheered by the rally visitors.
“It was instinctive,” she said. “I wouldn’t let him get away with it.”
Abare had attended the rally against the Texas SB 8, which she and others believed represented a woman’s right to abortion for the days leading up to the Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that affirmed a woman’s right to safety and legality in abortion in the United States.
Abare himself nearly died of a then-illegal abortion in the 1960s, when the procedures were banned, dangerous and performed in night-time facilities, with doctors who didn’t share their names or history.
Were abortions at the beginning of the 20th
“She left three children without a mother and, as far as I know, my grandfather was just not the nicest man,” said Bierut. “I just feel like it’s such an individual choice, and we don’t know so much about why people do what they have to do, that women should have the right to decide who is responsible for this baby.”
Abortion, said Wendie Dox, is not just a matter of birth control, it is designed to ensure that a child has the best chance of a good life. She carries a rare genetic disorder, ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, which leads to an excess of ammonia in a person’s bloodstream and which can be passed on through the family.
“I lost a child who lived 36 hours. I now have two daughters and if they accidentally get pregnant and are not properly cared for, they will lose that child within 36 hours, ”said Dox. “I don’t think anyone should go through this … if I could have ended this pregnancy at 12 weeks instead of living with it for 39 weeks, I would have done it. My children must have this right in case that happens to them. ”
The Beverly Hills rally was spearheaded by suffragette Gloria Allred, who shared her own story of how she nearly died from an unsafe abortion but was crowned by Texan teenager Paxton Smith.
Smith recently made headlines when she dropped her pre-approved high school graduation speech to speak out against SB 8.
“Before Roe v. Wade’s hands were tied to doctors by faith-based laws and they were not allowed to perform abortions. Patients had to take it into their own hands and thousands of women died as a result. We cannot and will not go back to the days when the only way to end pregnancy is to risk our lives … we are not vessels for procreation, we are human, and it is time we did be treated, “said Smith called. “The principles of this nation are freedom, liberty and equality. When a government crosses its borders, when a government turns its back on these principles, we will not be silent about it.
“Being a patriot is not the same as having a politician hold a field day. To be patriot means to hold this country accountable for everything it claims to be … today we are showing the government that we will not stop speaking out against the injustices against us. “