Carolyn Stearns, a Pilates instructor from South Windsor, and Amanda Kaplan of Madison didn’t know each other a few months ago. But news of politicians trying to set the clock back against women’s rights united them through a social networking site.

Joining tens of thousands of other women across the nation, Stearns and Kaplan helped organize the “Unite Women” rally Saturday in Hartford’s Bushnell Park.

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“I think my frustration started when the Susan G. Komen Foundation was going to take funding away from Planned Parenthood,” Kaplan said referring to efforts to defund the organization that provides breast cancer screenings and other healthcare services to women. The Susan G. Komen foundation reversed its decision in February.

Then came Rush Limbaugh’s remarks regarding contraception. Limbaugh called a Georgetown law student a “slut” for supporting a requirement that health insurance cover contraception. The remark caused dozens of advertisers to pull their support from the syndicated radio show. 

Kaplan said that’s when she decided something needs to be done and the rally seemed like a good way to bring awareness to the issue. She said there’s talk of a bigger rally being held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in September.

The Hartford rally wasn’t a political rally per se, but the attendees included a group of pro-life activists with yellow balloons that read “Life” in black letters. The group stood about 20 feet from the rally, praying.

The event itself included women, families, and children of many political persuasions.

Barbara Ruhe, a Republican from Wethersfield, said she’s always been a proponent of women’s rights. In fact, Ruhe won a lawsuit in the 1970s to get the Philadelphia Inquirer to stop printing “sex segregated want ads.”

She said sometimes Democrats forget that it was Republicans who got women the right to vote.

“If Democrats are so powerful then how come we’re still having this conversation?” she added. “We just don’t teach modern history very well.”

Woody Bliss, the Weston resident who heads the Connecticut Chapter of the Republican Majority for Choice, also spoke at the rally.

He said he’s asked all the time why he’s a pro-choice Republican.

“My answer is simple. I align with the Republican Party because I firmly believe in limited government, free markets, and sound fiscal and tax policy,” he said. “I believe that the government should do only that which individuals cannot do for themselves.”

“I am a pro-choice Republican because I believe the government has no constitutional authority to legislate behavior.”

Rally participants were urged to participate in the upcoming November election and to vote for pro-choice candidates.

Politicians who spoke at the event include Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and Attorney General George Jepsen. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s wife, Cathy, who used to operate a rape crisis center, Gretchen Raffa director of public policy and advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, Teresa Younger executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Lt. Col. Mike Zacchea a commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and many others also spoke.also spoke.