I was among some 6,000 reproductive-rights advocates who attended a rally for women’s health over the weekend to stand up for Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose in the face of the most dangerous political assault on women’s rights we’ve seen in years. The signs in the crowd were witty, the long and varied list of speakers and performers was impressive — with young women, reproductive justice advocates and women of color well-represented and kicking butt. Kathleen Hanna of the famed Riot Grrl musical movement even spoke about her own experiences going to Planned Parenthood in her early days as a struggling musician.
But one of the coolest things about the rally was the strong showing of male allies on stage and on the ground in Manhattan’s Foley Square. On stage, a group of Jewish male New York politicians made a series of completely impassioned, fiery speeches that shocked me with their urgent tone. Congressmen Eliot Engel, Jerrold Nadler, Anthony Weiner and Senator Charles Schumer were four of a number of wonderful speakers.
Many of these guys invoked their daughters with emotion in their voices — echoing studies that show male legislators with daughters tend to vote with more empathetic attitudes on women’s issues. Others called out the Republican opposition by name — specifically Mike Pence, who sponsored the bill gutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood — for wanting to, and I paraphrase, “stand in hospital rooms making decisions for patients. Schumer assured us that Pence’s bill would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate. But the fact that the bill has gotten as far as it has remains shocking, and House Speaker John Boehner is out publicly blasting Planned Parenthood.
As the fight continues, we’re going to need every ally we have — female, male, young, old, from every walk of life — to keep standing up and speaking up for women’s health, and realizing that this attack out of DC is a universal affront, not a niche women’s issue.
Here’s what Sen. Schumer had to say at the rally: