Reproductive Choice a Core Civil Liberty: Bringing Nebraskans to the March for Women's Health and Lives

December 17, 2003

By Tim Butz, Executive Director, ACLU of Nebraska

Tim Butz

Tim Butz with Jake, the civil liberties watchdog.

As you might imagine, it isn't easy to get people to travel 24 hours by bus to attend a one-day demonstration for reproductive rights.  But here in Nebraska, we've got folks preparing to do just that.  In fact, we've set a goal of sending at least 500 people to the March for Women's Health and Lives, and that's no small number in a state where there are more cows than people.  

The great news is that I'm confident we'll make our goal.  Nebraskans, like the rest of the country, have watched as the government has been reaching its long arm into our personal lives, eroding our civil liberties on a daily basis.  Reproductive rights are one of the liberties under constant attack.  The March for Women's Health and Lives is a chance to draw a line in the sand and remind America that freedom of choice is a valued freedom that must be protected. 

At the ACLU of Nebraska, we're working to spread this message far and wide.  We are an active part of the Pro-Choice Coalition of Nebraska and are working with them in placing ads in newsletters and arranging speaking engagements before all kinds of groups, including book clubs, gardening clubs, and associations of business and professional women.  We're finding that the more we reach out and talk about what's really at stake in this March, the more people understand that reproductive freedom is on the chopping block.  Nebraskans are planning on joining this March because they want the attacks on their personal liberties to stop.  

Looking at reproductive rights through a broad civil liberties lens means not only working with our local Pro-Choice Coaltion but also reaching out to likely allies.  To help create a bridge to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community, for example, I spoke at the University of Omaha's National Coming Out Day.  I promoted the March by making the links between LGBT struggles and reproductive rights explicit.  We share common concerns and common dangers.  When presented in this light, the LGBT community understands that the right to make decisions about one's private reproductive life, free from government intrusion, is part of the foundation of liberty we all share.

We have also been concentrating on bringing our message to young people.  Perhaps because they never witnessed the devastation of illegal abortion, many people under 30 are complacent about the right.  We have been working with one of our Pro-Choice Coalition partners, the Feminist Majority Foundation, to break through that complacency.  Our outreach is working.  Every day, more and more young people are coming out in support of the March.  They show a real commitment to educating themselves and their peers about the attacks on reproductive rights and getting their voices heard. 

Over the last several years, the right to reproductive choice and access to reproductive health care have been seriously eroded for young people, women of color, poor women, and women living in rural areas.  To ensure that the women who have been hardest hit by the attacks on our liberties are not left behind in April, we've established a scholarship fund that began with a generous grant of $4000 from an individual donor and that continues to grow through various fundraising events.  I envision filling five buses full of scholarship recipients from across the state.  In addition, we have already heard from several ACLU members who have said they plan to drive on their own, arriving early to help in the final push to make this the biggest rally for reproductive rights in our nation's history.

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