Local residents join nationwide rally for women’s rights


by Lois Alter Mark

San Diego residents joined men and women all around the country recently in a show of solidarity to defend women’s rights and tell legislators, “Enough is enough.”

Organized by UnitedWomen.org — a national nonpartisan grassroots founded to protect and advance women’s rights — rallies and marches took place in cities in every one of the 50 states. Although the big California events were held in Sacramento and Los Angeles, San Diego participants headed to Balboa Park to raise awareness for the issues.

“It was my first time at an equal rights rally and it was great to be in the middle of so many enthusiastic people brought together by the common bond of support for equality,” said Judy Becker of San Diego. “Now is the time for us to unite, speak up and let legislators know voters will not just sit quietly while they pass bills that strip away our rights.”

Men and women of all ages lined the street by the Organ Pavilion, holding signs with messages like “Women Brought Politicians Into the World and Women Can Take Them Out Of Office.” Mothers and fathers attended with their children, husbands accompanied wives, single Gen X- and Y-ers stood side by side with teens and senior citizens. It was a melting pot of races, religions and even political parties.

“These are issues which affect all women, regardless of their political affiliation,” said Elin Stebbins Waldal, local author of “Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life.” “When the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, it sent the message that we, as a nation, believe that living a life free from abuse, sexual assault and violence is a human right. The fact that 31 elected officials voted against the passage of the VAWA this year is a gross misuse of the power granted by their constituency, and it’s time to show them those constituents have the power to vote them out.”

SAM_0217Kim Perl of Carmel Valley agrees. “Women before us fought hard for our rights; now it’s our turn. What’s been going on is outrageous, and it’s up to us to stand up and fight back.”

Participants handed out information and spoke to people walking by to make sure they understood these facts:

• Suffragist Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment in 1921. It has been introduced in Congress every session since 1923, and although it passed in 1972, it fell three states short of the 38 necessary to become law. The Equal Rights Amendment states, “Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” In 2012, it still has not been ratified.

•In the last 15 months, over 900 new pieces of legislation restricting women’s reproductive rights have been introduced or passed in more than 35 states. These include mandatory transvaginal ultrasound laws and fetal personhood bills. Some of the most radical legislation has been introduced in Arizona, which establishes pregnancy as starting two weeks before conception. In other states, women are now being arrested and charged with murder in cases of miscarriage and stillbirths.

•“This is a war we fought back in the ‘70s and won,” said Vicky Tarulis of San Diego. “Now, 40 years later, it’s extremely frustrating to have to fight for women’s rights all over again. With 52 percent of the electorate, though, we have the numbers to turn out those who oppose us. To achieve this, women must unite and act.”

Tarulis’ husband was out there with her, along with many other men. “I’m here because it’s a fundamental rights issue,” he explained. “Women are the immediate target and I will do anything I can to support them.”

As passersby continued to offer thumbs-up and drivers honked their horns and cheered, it was apparent that the crowd had great support.

“I am concerned that my 20-year-old daughter will not be afforded the same rights that I worked hard to secure, so I plan to continue to make my voice heard by marching, writing my representatives and doing anything else that will keep women’s rights in place,” said Carmel Valley resident Susan Jensen, whose blog, StyleSubstanceSoul.com, will cover these issues as the Presidential election draws nearer. “We need to make sure young women get out and vote and realize that, unfortunately, their rights are not guaranteed unless they keep fighting for them.

“Honestly,” she sighed. “I just can’t believe we are having to fight this all over again.”

For more information about local efforts, visit https://www.facebook.com/WeAreWomenMarchSanDiego.