WASHINGTON – Hundreds of women and men clad in red observed International Women’s Day on Wednesday by marching to the White House with a pointed message for President Donald Trump: they will continue to demonstrate in favor of abortion rights.
“We have been resisting as women from day one,” said Darakshan Raja of the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum. “To be a woman is to resist this patriarchal society and world that uses our physical bodies to send messages of terror and control.”
More than 40 organizations co-sponsored the march, which culminated with a rally at Lafayette Square, just north of the White House. Speakers representing such groups as the Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE) and NARAL Pro-Choice America, spoke in favor of reproductive rights.
“We stand in solidarity with women all around the world,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, interim executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, in an interview. “We are going to fight and fight and fight to defend all the gains and the progress we’ve made as the global community to advance women’s maternal health.”
Three days after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order that reinstated the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule. The policy bans allocating federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions. The Mexico City Policy has been enacted by every Republican president and repealed by every Democratic president since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan first introduced it.
Protesters chanted “Resist Trump. Stop the gag,” as they crowded around a stage in Lafayette Square. They carried signs with messages such as “We will not be silenced,” and “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Choices.” Many carried pink, circular signs that read, “Stop the War on Women.”
Protesters’ choice to wear red—sweaters, dresses, shoes, lipstick, and chokers—was intended to send a message.
“I’m wearing red today because it is in solidarity with women who are striking. I recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to strike and not to face serious consequences,” said Helen Taylor, 31.
Taylor, who said she works to stop human trafficking, took the day off and brought her infant child to the protest.
“I’m going to be in solidarity with people who can’t strike because they can’t afford a day off or because they can’t afford childcare or other reasons.”
While most protesters were women, there was a notable male presence.
“I think it’s important for men to understand—I think a lot of men don’t—but I think it’s important for them to understand what their women are facing, what they’ve been going through, and what it’s been like for them for many centuries,” said Steven Burns, 65.
Some protesters also said they are participating in A Day Without Women, a national women’s strike. The rally was one of dozens of events in Washington and around the country organized in honor of International Women’s Day.
Raja, one of several speakers who addressed those gathered in the park, said the anti-abortion policy is an act of violence against women.
“It’s 2017. I’m sick and tired of white men controlling my life,” she said to enthusiastic applause from her audience.