HARTFORD, CT — Chanting, “We won’t back down we’re here to fight, healthcare is a human right,” 300 people marched to the state capitol Wednesday afternoon in an effort to build momentum against Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and what marchers termed other threats to women’s healthcare.
Planned Parenthood and other organizations who oppose restrictions on reproductive health, rights and access lobbied first inside the Legislative Office Building on Wednesday, then marched from the office building to the state capitol, where the group held a rally.
The group called itself “The Connecticut Coalition for Choice.” It said while the threat to women’s healthcare and promises to defund Planned Parenthood are coming mostly from Washington, it’s important to have their voices heard locally.
“Connecticut has always been in the forefront of the pro-choice movement,” Susan’s Yolen, vice president of Public Policy and Advocacy of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England said.
“Folks are fired up,” Yolen said.
“We are hoping to send a message with this rally – that Connecticut remains a state that strongly believes in protecting women’s rights.”
Gretchen Raffa, director of Public Policy, Advocacy & Strategic Engagement for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, whipped up the crowd before it set off on its march to the capitol.
“When reproductive rights are under attack, what are we going to do? Raffa asked the marchers. She answered, loudly, to cheers: “Stand up and fight back!”
One of those marching was Connor Douglas of Norwich, who held up a sign that said: “What an illegitimate president, sad!”
Asked what he’d like to President-elect Donald Trump do, he quickly responded: “Get off Twitter and get out of politics.”
Another marcher was 12-year-old Samantha Sondik, of Bolton, who carried a sign that said on one side: “My Body My Choice” on one side, and “I Will Not Be Silent.”
When Samantha was asked why she was at the rally, she said: “To support Planned Parenthood.”
Wednesday’s rally was a precursor to Saturday’s bigger rally in Washington, D.C., where women – and men – from across the country will rally on the National Mall.
The rally, the day after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, is expected by some estimates to draw close to 1 million people, including thousands from Connecticut.
Organizers hope the significance of the march in Washington, bringing together more than 100 different interest groups including Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, NAACP and MoveOn.org, will be a web of activism spun in its aftermath.
In the organizers’ words: “The Women’s March on Washington is a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and background in our nation’s capital…to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination.”
Aside from appointing Supreme Court justices who could seek to overturn the 1973 decision that established a woman’s right to abortion, Roe v Wade, there are other things that a Trump presidency, and a Republican-led Congress could do that women’s group fear.
It includes Congress rolling back funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides free breast cancer screening and health services, as part of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
At a recent press conference at the New Haven Planned Parenthood office, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Trump’s choices for cabinet positions send clear warning signals to Planned Parenthood and women’s right supporters.
“Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-GA, is a champion of the anti-choice movement who has led the charge to defund Planned Parenthood and deprive women of basic health care screenings, family planning and contraception,’’ Blumenthal said.
Additionally, Blumenthal said, Trump’s choice of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, for Attorney General is no better.
“In his 87 votes on abortion and reproductive health during his 20 years in the Senate, Attorney General nominee U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions voted to undermine and woman’s right to choose 86 times,” Blumenthal said.