| 03.24.2018

Marching forward — Moscow community members reflect on women’s rights one year after the historic Women’s March


In 1912, the first birth control clinic opened in Brooklyn, New York. In 1968, the National Right to Life Committee formed. In 1973, the landmark case of Roe v. Wade ruled a woman’s right to an abortion is protected under the 14th Amendment.

Nearly 44 years later, in 2017, more than three million people joined the Women’s March advocating for women’s equality and health across the world. These marches, rallies and movements have not gone unnoticed in Moscow’s small corner of the United States.

Nearly 2,500 people gathered in East City Park January 2017 as part of the Women’s Marches that took place across the country.

Grayson Hughbanks | Argonaut

According to a 2017 Argonaut report, Palouse marchers felt trends from previous decades rose to the surface with the election of President Donald Trump. A year since then, the conversation surrounding women’s health, especially with the presence of both pro-life and pro-choice advocates in the area, remains a constant.

Advocates from both sides of the debate met Saturday afternoon in Friendship Square. Moscow Right-to-Life organized a March for Life rally through Moscow and was met by a silent counter-protest of pro-choice advocates.

Nearly 300 pro-life supporters rallied in the square and listened to speakers across the street from 50 counter-protesters holding signs.

Audrey Faunce, a University of Idaho law student and organizer of this year’s protest, said counter-protests have been assembled on the Palouse for years.

Faunce said it wasn’t until Trump’s election that she commenced her organizing efforts.

“I didn’t see that anyone else was coordinating a counter-presence to let the other voices be heard,” Faunce said. “So, I was thinking, ‘I have a little free time — let’s do this.’”

Although a second Women’s March was not coordinated in Moscow this year, individuals on the Palouse are still involved in the conversation surrounding the climate of female reproductive health.

Lysa Salsbury, the director of the UI Women’s Center, said following Trump’s election, the fear among women’s access to healthcare has grown. This includes the gender-based health care insurance premiums, access to pregnancy and maternity care and reproductive healthcare screenings, she said.

“Since Trump was elected, and following his appointment of cabinet members who are hostile to women and reproductive rights, there’s been increasing fear and concern among women and their supporters around potential rollbacks of benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act,” Salsbury said.

Uncertainty surrounding women’s rights has risen in the last year, Salbsury said — making the future unclear. She said it will take a large amount of support socially, politically and economically, for women to feel secure in health services again.

“I do see advocates for women’s health being more visible and vocal than ever before,” Salsbury said. “And, we’re going to need to grow that momentum to keep pushing back against the constant social and political threats to women’s reproductive freedom.”

Frances Arend, the president of the Students for Life at UI said the current administration works positively in the favor of pro-life advocates.

Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have added to the pro-life movements momentum, she said.

“Both the president and vice president are pro-life and have already been working to protect pre-born lives during their administration,” Arend said.

At the East Coast March for Life demonstration, Trump addressed the crowd, becoming the first president in history to do so, according to one Politico article. Trump acknowledged late-term abortions and said America is becoming more accepting of pro-life views. According to Gallup, 46 percent of Americans possess pro-life views and 18 percent believe abortion should be illegal under all circumstances.

Anna Green, a member of the Student’s for Life organization said the turnout at the most recent March for Life rally last weekend was one of the largest Moscow had ever seen.

“I suspect that, with the beginning of the Women’s March, we will see a rise in the acceptance of abortion and contraception in the next year,” Green said. “After that, however, seeing how many students are willing to stand up for life across the country assures me that this increase will not last.”

With polarized viewpoints across the country and in Moscow, Katherine Aiken, a professor of history specializing in women and labor, said although the recent marches and movements might seem like a culmination of the discussion, these conversations have long since been a part of history.

“The story of American politics is a story of cycles,” Aiken said.

The current administration in any time period, she said, propels the discussion in its favor.

“I think it is a mixed story,” Aiken said. “I’m encouraged because women are talking about being empowered, but they are the people who didn’t come out and vote in 2016, like they should have.”

Approximately 53 percent of all white female voters turned out for Trump in the 2016 election, according to a New York Times article.

White women, Aiken said, have always had more abundant reproductive healthcare resources compared to their minority counterparts.

“It helped if you were socio-economically secure — which according to history, it is more often than not, white women,” Aiken said.

Trump’s election, Aiken said, has not foretold positivity for women, the poor and minorities in general, she said.

“In a lot of instances, I would say women have made a lot of progress across time, but much of today’s conversation is the same conversation women were having in 1918 — that’s the discouraging cycle,” Aiken said.

Even with polarized views on the Palouse, both sides feel the future of their movements involves continued growth.

“This movement cannot die,” Green said. “The growing Pro-Life generation, here on our college campuses, knows what we believe in and why we believe it.”

Salsbury said she believes social change can occur with organized, coordinated action to thoroughly make a difference. Although social media has proven to be a source of outreach for women’s rights and issues, she said liking and sharing does not always create the most tangible change.

“We need to rally, lobby, vote, organize, volunteer, fundraise and educate,” Salsbury said.

Savannah Cardon can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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