‘Our voices will be heard’
Women’s marches around the world drew record numbers and support, but local attendees say they are ever vigilant for a rocky road ahead.
Initial reports indicate more than 3 million people attended protests held around the globe for women’s rights – Washington, D.C., estimates peg the city’s gathering at more than 500,000 people.
On Monday, President Donald Trump enacted an executive order halting funding to international health organizations that include abortion as a family planning option.
“To me, that makes no sense whatsoever,” said East Penn Township resident Nancy Blaha, who attended the Philadelphia sister march. “Don’t tell me what to do – I’ll decide. Women, particularly poor women, have the right to make that decision. Don’t impose your religion, your standards on me.”
The Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, originated under Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since then, opposing parties have flipped on the issue – Clinton did away with it, Bush re-enacted it, and Obama revoked it.
There is concern that the action misrepresents the nature of Planned Parenthood, and that this can result in a heavily skewed opinion on the matter.
“Trump has not only with his plans of action, but also his words, shown that women are going to be in for a fight over the next four years and that includes everyone: women of color, transgender women, young and old,” said Clarissa Colondo, a Lehighton resident and senior at Marian Catholic High School. “I believe a lot of people who are in support of the defunding of Planned Parenthood are naive to the fact those federal funds do not go toward any abortion procedures.”
The bias in presentation has permeated the root issue of women’s rights, including the perception of Saturday’s marches. Some people have linked incidents of rioting, arrests and destruction of property during and following Friday’s inauguration with Saturday’s protests, but there was no clear association between the two.
“People must not adjust to this ‘new normal’ of lies, distortion and bullying,” said Linda Zak, who attended the New York City march. “We won’t accept the tactic of using distrust to divide our people for political gain. Women will not forget. Our voices will be heard.”
Blaha and Colondo both said that the event they attended was harmonious.
“It was a very peaceful event, and you could feel the sense of solidarity from the men, women and children in attendance,” said Colondo, who also attended the Philadelphia march.
Blaha said the protests were a great way to get people engaged in decisions and lawmaking that directly affect them.
“I think it pulls people together, it energizes people to get involved, to stay aware of what’s going on, and to take action,” she said.
Zak found the march in New York City to be inspiring, renewing her faith in the citizens’ abilities to play a part in how they are governed.
“When I saw the thousands of people marching peacefully and calmly up Fifth Avenue, I was inspired to hold on to hope,” Zak said. “To believe that people, working together, can make democracy work for all Americans, not just the privileged few. To allow all our citizens to experience the dignity of acceptance. And to work to make sure that our politicians speak for the people they were hired to represent.”
Looking to the future
In light of Trump’s executive order, these women are under no impression that the next few years will be easy, especially when it comes to actions related to women’s health care, among many other issues.
Colondo said that the key to success will be camaraderie, positivity and more active involvement in government.
“I believe moving forward, the best thing we can do is keep our morale positive and refrain from putting other individuals down for their differentiating opinions,” she said. “Nobody is going to listen if you’re being insulting and shouting. We must stand our ground and fight for what we believe in but do so in a very respectful manner. The fight is far from over, but as Americans I believe our diversity will make this country continue to be great. Another way we can move forward is getting more people involved with our local politics.”
Blaha said she is wary to speculate on where things go from here, but she is ever-ready to stand up for the rights of women nationwide.
“We wait and see what happens,” she said. “I don’t assume anything, but I’m going to be prepared for what happens. I’ve got my senators, my House representatives on speed-dial, and they’re going to be hearing from me a lot more than they have in the past few years.”