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story.lead_photo.caption People cheer in favor of DACA during a speech by Diana Pacheco at Saturday’s Rally for Reproductive Justice in Little Rock. More photos are available at - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Speakers at a reproductive-rights rally in Little Rock on Saturday covered a range of topics, but sang the same refrain to a crowd of hundreds: After you leave, sign up and show up.

People congregated on the Capitol steps -- poster boards held aloft -- to participate in the eighth annual Rally for Reproductive Justice.

The Arkansas Coalition for Reproductive Justice, which put on the event, defines "reproductive justice" as the right to choose whether and when to have children, and the right to parent those children in safe, healthy environments.

The rally, and others like it across the United States, marked the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade. On Jan. 22, 1973, the court affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion.

Gallery: 8th Annual Rally for Reproductive Justice

Paula Haraway drove three hours from her home in Sallisaw, Okla., to attend the march.

"We don't really have a lot of people in our area that feel the way we do," Haraway said of herself and her friend.

"When things started really going south, we decided we should get involved."

From the podium, Kendra Johnson, who directs the Human Rights Campaign in Arkansas, welcomed people like Haraway who want to get involved.

"Believe me when I tell you, we are the ones we have been waiting for," she said.

When Donald Trump was elected president, Johnson said she saw "a white supremacist walk into the White House and declare open season on our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness."

Women came together in the aftermath, Johnson said.

"They stood undocumented and unafraid," she said. "And they're running for office."

Diana Pacheco and Kati McFarland talked about their personal histories during their time at the microphone.

Pacheco, 20, was born in Mexico City, attends Philander Smith College, works three jobs and benefits from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a federal policy known as DACA.

McFarland, a health care advocate from Springdale, lives with a severe form of the genetic disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Last month, when she was sexually assaulted, health care became "a matter of reclaiming my body as my own," McFarland said.

She implored the crowd to join causes.

"Trickle-down activism is just as useless as trickle-down economics," she said.

Organizations set up booths to enlist volunteers. Scott Boop, a third-year medical student, held a sign that read, "Write your legislators here."

His organization passed out cards with Arkansas congressional representatives' phone numbers on them.

"It's Cotton pickin' time in Arkansas," read one sign that pushed for Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's ouster in 2020. "Grab em' by the midterms," read another.

One woman held a sign with a passage from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. In the book, a class of women are forced to procreate with their male masters, who rule every aspect of their lives.

"To the politicians that treat The Handmaid's Tale like an instruction manual and not a cautionary tale, we won't go back," Rita Sklar said from the podium. Sklar directs the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sklar referred to what she called a "tsunami" of abortion restrictions that Arkansas legislators passed in the past few years.

In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers passed Act 45, which bans a common second-trimester procedure that supporters of the law have called "barbaric" and opponents say is the safest method available at outpatient facilities.

Act 603 governs the disposal of fetal remains after surgical abortions.

Act 1018 requires doctors to tell law enforcement agencies when an abortion was performed on a girl who is 16 or younger. Act 733, requires doctors to seek a woman's previous medical records if she knows the sex of her fetus to eliminate sex selection.

Those laws are being challenged in federal court.

Today, the 40th annual March for Life will be held in Arkansas. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, the keynote speaker, likely will discuss the legislative abortion restrictions, said Rose Mimms, executive director for Arkansas Right to Life, the march's organizer.

The march always focuses on "the lives that have been lost due to legal abortion, in our country and in our state," Mimms said.

On Saturday, Sklar said politicians are "still trying to march us backward." However, "with the power of collective action, nothing can stop us," she said.

Anika Whitfield, the keynote speaker, agreed. She's a podiatrist, an ordained Baptist preacher and a Little Rock public schools advocate with the Save Our Schools campaign.

Whitfield addressed the chanting and cheering mass of people.

"I'm appealing to you. Don't just come out here and say you're fired up and ready to go unless you're ready... to insist upon justice and equity for all."

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Diana Pacheco (left) wipes away a tear during her speech as Anika Whitfield cheers her on during the 8th annual Rally for Reproductive Justice on Saturday at the state Capitol in Little Rock. Pacheco talked about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Metro on 01/21/2018

Print Headline: Abortion-rights rally encourages activism

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  • smmlv3
    January 21, 2018 at 6:17 a.m.

    Some of us on the other side of the "reproductive rights" issue simply do not believe abortion should be used for birth control because we value human life. Our side of the movement should call itself "Reproductive Responsibility".

  • wildblueyonder
    January 21, 2018 at 11:51 a.m.

    Looks like the "cream of the crop", doesn't it? Sad!

  • GeneralMac
    January 21, 2018 at 12:32 p.m.

    Look at those smiling faces.
    Amazing that the word "abortion" makes them so happy.

  • Jesuswillsave
    January 21, 2018 at 1:53 p.m.

    Shame Shame on folks that value life so little that they believe it OK to kill. It may be legal but it is still wrong.

  • SarahBee
    January 21, 2018 at 2:20 p.m.

    This Rally was so much more than your headline would lead people to believe. There are many more issues that are considered to be Reproductive Rights. Abortion is only one. Access to affordable housing and healthcare, access to public schools and special education, rights for all oppressed peoples and groups including women, immigrants, disabled, people of color, all sexual orientations. Hunger and food insecurity are Reproductive Justice issues. The standard definition we use for Reproductive Justice is "The right to HAVE children, the right to NOT HAVE children and the right to PARENT the children we have in SAFE and HEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS." Access to affordable contraceptives and sexual health education would go a long way to promoting "Reproductive Responsibility" And yes, we think we are the 'cream of the crop', we DO value lives and support a woman's right to make her own, personal decision about HER pregnancy without intimidation or shame.

  • TimberTopper
    January 21, 2018 at 2:47 p.m.

    Hey Jesuswillsave, how do you feel about the death penalty?

  • wildblueyonder
    January 21, 2018 at 3:09 p.m.

    I hope NONE of these women reproduce, man! And SarahBee, do you think you have the "right" to kill the unborn? Then don't tell us you "value" life, if only you could ask the unborn how they feel. You women are irresponsible and utterly selfish!

  • 23cal
    January 21, 2018 at 5:13 p.m.

    Good post, SarahBee.
    The fanatics are too dumb to realize that abortions are going to happen regardless of the draconian laws they want passed against it. Always has happened, always will, regardless of laws. However, it makes them feel all smug and holier-than-thou to claim they value life and you don't. It is partly a way of self-pleasuring for them and is usually mixed in with wanting to use the government as cudgel to be cruel to desperate people who don't buy their brand of cult inspired b.s.

    The sad thing is that we could work together to lower the abortion rate by providing social programs which remove a lot of the reasons for destitute and desperate people to feel abortion is the only way out for them. They could be pushing for the two things that have been shown to have a huge impact on abortion rates: free and easily accessible birth control and age appropriate sex education all the way through school. Instead of supporting any of these, their only solution are dystopian laws which will force desperate women back into back alley clinics with butcher knives and coat hangers. Then they brag about how much they value life. They aren't interested in "saving babies" they are interested in criminalizing sex .
    I regret, SarahBee, that you threw your pearls before swine whose narrow view of valuing life is restricted to dooming women to the unsafe practices which killed them and made them sterile before Roe v. Wade.

  • GeneralMac
    January 21, 2018 at 7:06 p.m.

    When the United States Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial birth abortion, EVERY Democrat campaigning for president voiced their displeasure with the ban..
    (partial birth abortion is when a late term baby is only delivered until the head is out, then a scissors is thrust thru the base of the skull killing it )
    If the rest of the body was out, it would be murder.

    Despite the vast majority of Americans opposing that barbaric procedure, Barack HUSSEIN Obama was one of the campaigners against the ban.

    Pandering to get a few votes from the far left .

  • GeneralMac
    January 21, 2018 at 7:15 p.m.

    They outlaw freak shows at carnivals/fairs but allow them at the capital steps in Little Rock ?