NOW president calls for student support

By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
March 29, 2001

Women are “holding on to abortion rights by the skin of our teeth,” Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization of Women, told George Washington University students Tuesday night.

The event, organized by the campus chapter of the Feminist Majority, hosted Ireland in an effort to attract attention to an “Emergency Action for Women’s Lives.” The April 22 event will feature a march on the nation’s capital.

“I can’t think of anything more fundamental than the right to decide when to have children,” Ireland said. “I don’t want to be part of the generation that won and lost the right to have an abortion.”

Ireland spoke to a group of nearly 200 people concerned at the short but poignant record of the Bush administration on the issue of abortion.

On his third day in office, Bush reinforced his pro-life convictions when he ordered the halting of federal funding to foreign groups that sponsor abortions.

Ireland said illegal abortions were the leading cause of maternity deaths in America before abortion was legalized.

“I know what it is like to have an illegal abortion. I had an illegal abortion,” she said. “I can tell you who you went to when abortions were not legal, you went to see the same people who ran the illegal gambling operation in the basement of the American Legion hall.”

Her speech stressed the need for abortion to remain legal to avoid regression to dangerous illegal abortions.

NOW is organizing the April event to convince the Senate to not allow pro-life Supreme Court justices on the high court. NOW plans to inundate Senate offices with e-mails, lobbying efforts and demonstrations.

Ireland called on college students from across the country to join in the protest and show their support for the cause of women’s rights.

“People want to see themselves succeed, that is what is going to make (students) get on a bus and come to the capital and make their voices heard,” Ireland told U-WIRE. “I am very encouraged by the response that we are getting when we talk to groups like this. They see the importance of the issues and see that their voices and their participation can make a difference.”

The GW chapter worked to bring Ireland to the campus as part of her tour of the nation’s campuses to drum up support for the planned action.

“Our rights are being threatened,” said Melisa Pardes, a member of the GW Feminist Majority. “We are worried that (Bush) is going to work to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Though only in its first year, the Feminist Majority chapter at GW has found support from activists on campus.

“We are doing a lot for a first year group,” said Jennifer Jaketic, also a member of the group. “It is not only abortion issues that we are against — we think that the tax cut is also a bad thing. It is unfairly benefiting the rich and hurts the poor, especially poor women.”

Ireland held the crowd’s attention for more than an hour, interjecting anecdotes into her presentation.

“We have to laugh, then march in the streets,” said Ireland. “You have to find something to laugh at. Because what do pompous men in power hate the most? People laughing at them.”

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