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More pro-life groups removed as official partners of the Women's March

On Saturday, January 21, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women and women's rights advocates will descend on Washington, D.C. for what was billed as an all-inclusive demonstration for a range of issues impacting women. However, in recent days there has been a backlash against pro-life demonstrators who have been removed from the Women's March official list of partners.

More than 400 partners are listed on the Women's March on Washington website, taking on diverse issues like civil rights, reproductive rights, environmentalism, gender pay equity, LGBTQ rights, gun violence, criminal justice reform, and many others. The Women's March mission statement puts out a clear, inclusive call to "all defenders of human rights" to join in the demonstration "in numbers too great to ignore."

After an article published Monday in the Atlantic highlighted the participation of hundreds of pro-life activists in the march, there was a social media firestorm rejecting pro-life participants. Additionally, the official platform of the Women's March, released on January 12 included access to "safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people" as a core belief and defining principle of the movement.

"They send the message that they wanted diversity but only a particular type of diversity and were not wanting to work with pro-life feminists," said Destiny Herndon-de la Rosa, president and founder of the pro-life feminist group, New Wave Feminists. She got an invitation to participate in the March on Washington, but later learned that she was not welcome. "We were removed on Monday around noon."

She cites "online backlash" as the reason why the Women's March decided to silently remove the group from the list of partners. "Unfortunately no one from the March reached out to us, but rather a friend checked the site after seeing the Twitter backlash and noticed our name had been removed."

Despite being excluded from the event, New Wave Feminists will still show up on Saturday. "It's a march for women and we're women. We think differently, but at the end of the day we represent a contingent of women who feel that nonviolence should be extended to the womb."

The Women's March responded in a statement on Monday acknowledging that they excluded the pro-life group. They apologized for the "error" of including New Wave Feminists as a partner, calling the group "anti-choice." They continued that the march's platform "is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one."

So far, the pro-life groups planning to participate in the Women's March include New Wave Feminists, Stanton Healthcare, And Then There Were None, and Students for Life for America. All but one of those groups was, at one point, listed as a partner on the Women's March website and subsequently removed.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who left the practice and founded the pro-life group, And Then There Were None (ATTWN), explained how she too was excluded.

"Our group was listed and now this morning we are not," Johnson said on Wednesday. ATTWN applied to be an official partner a few days ago and listed on the website for a few short hours before suddenly being removed.

Originally, Johnson was glad to see how inclusive the Women's March was, but is now "disappointed" that pro-life voices are being excluded. She emphasized that she will still join the demonstration, not in protest but solidarity with women on other important issues.

"There are other issues besides abortion that I think we can find commonality on and there are a lot of issues that are concerning to me as a woman, abortion aside," she said. "But to say, 'Your concern about women's rights is not valued here,' that is disappointing. It shows me that they're not actually interested in representing all women, but only a certain group of women."

Johnson's group has advocated for abortion clinic workers to leave their practice and provides tools for pro-life activists to encourage abortion providers to quit their jobs.

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America announced their sponsorship of the Women's March, a move that Johnson claimed was directly related to the exclusion of pro-life activists.

"I don't have any doubt that they had pressure from groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood to remove any pro-life groups from the march," Johnson argued. "It's really sad to me because there are points of commonality among all of these groups. The fact that now they have made this march so incredibly polarizing is disappointing."

As of Wednesday morning, the Idaho-based Stanton Healthcare was listed as an official partner of the Women's March, despite being a pro-life health center. By 1:30 p.m., a social media campaign to get the self-described "life-affirming" pregnancy clinic ousted from the demonstration appeared to be successful and the group was removed the list of sponsors.


Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, emphasized that the pro-life groups had misunderstood the basic organizing principle of the Women's March on Washington. "The whole theme of this march is women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women's rights," she said. "But don't try to claim that you're somehow supporting women's rights as human rights if you're trying to stop women from accessing basic healthcare [by denying access to abortion services]."

As far as the groups' claims that they are being excluded from the event, she noted, "I would never dream of infiltrating the March for Life and then claiming I was excluded... I wouldn't go and try to shame the March for Life because they didn't include me."

On January 27, many of those same pro-life groups that were removed as Women's March partners will join other activists in the March on Life, a pro-life demonstration in Washington.

It is unclear whether there will be a clash among the pro-life and pro-choice groups at Saturday's march. Some pro-lifers will meet up at the Supreme Court and band together before joining the Women's March, which is expected to draw as many as 200,000 activists to the nation's capital.

Kelly Baden, of advocacy director of the pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights, gave her thoughts on the Women's March, saying a woman's right to access reproductive health care is "crucial and nonnegotiable."

"I hope everyone marching on Saturday around the world takes comfort in and energy from this community, and then commits to the ongoing work we will be doing to protect our reproductive rights over the next four years and beyond," Baden said.

Many in the pro-choice community have grown increasingly nervous about Donald Trump's presidency combined with a Republican-controlled Congress. During the campaign, both Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence positioned themselves as ardently pro-life. Trump pledged to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court who could overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing individual states to determine whether a woman can legally seek an abortion.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have been working to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the nationwide family planning clinic that also provides abortions.

The March for Women was originally conceived to deliver a message to an incoming administration that women "will not go back" or accept an administration that does not respect women's rights, Johnson said. "It's not an anti-Trump march, it's a pro-woman march, but this is a pro-woman march that recognizes the dire threats that women's rights are now facing."

The Women's March will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. near the U.S. Capitol. According to a D.C. council member, 1,200 buses have requested parking for the march, six times the number of buses requesting parking for Trump's January 20 inauguration.





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