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."
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