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Weiner aids boro groups in women’s rights march

The Bush administration and its political allies are trying to erode women’s ability to choose to have an abortion and other reproductive rights, city representatives of women’s groups and Borough President Helen Marshall told a news conference last Thursday at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.

In response, the groups plan to join a March for Women’s Lives on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. April 25 to express their concerns.

Buses to the march, sponsored by several of the groups and by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), will leave from Borough Hall and from Forest Hills.

“The continued attack on women’s health and rights will not be tolerated,” Ericka Schumacher of Planned Parenthood said, noting that any change in the laws governing reproduction would especially hurt women of color and low-income women.

“We will not rest until all people have access to affordable and safe reproductive health care,” Schumacher said.

The news conference was organized by the Center for Women of New York, a Queens group whose office is in Borough Hall. Local representatives from the National Organization for Women; NARAL Pro-Choice America; Planned Parenthood; and Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America all spoke, as did Marshall.

“There have been so many instances where they chipped away at Roe v. Wade,” said Marshall, referring to the Bush administration and like-minded elected officials.

Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, legalized abortion, but Marshall and other speakers cited recent legislation they say is whittling away at women’s rights.

On Nov. 5, President George Bush signed a law banning a procedure called partial-birth abortion by opponents. The legislation represents the first ban on a specific abortion procedure since Roe v. Wade.

On March 25, the Senate approved legislation making it a separate offense to harm a fetus during a crime. Pro choice groups said the bill established the fetus as a person, which could provide ammunition to those seeking to ban abortion.

Many critics have said the legislation represents another round in the country’s Culture Wars, and abortion “opponents have used insidious methods to turn back the clock,” said Jeanette Evans of Center for the Women of New York.

Evans said those methods have included sending graphic films of abortions to legislators, trying to intimidate patients at abortion clinics and continuing to refer to links between abortions and breast cancer despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

Abortion opponents have stigmatized abortion by making it an issue of morality, while the Bush administration has ignored or manipulated scientific research, Evans added.

Schumacher of Planned Parenthood called for the end of mandated 24-hour waiting periods for abortions, forced consultations before abortions and the requirement that minors must have parental consent in some states. She also demanded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration make the morning-after pill available over the counter as did other representatives.

“We must maintain our privacy as women in this country,” said Harriet Gussin of Hadassah, a Manhattan-based organization with a Bayside office. “We must be permitted to choose our own futures.”

The March for Women’s Lives was organized more than a year ago, the representatives said, and they hope it will draw more than 1 million people to the capital.

The Forest Hills bus leaves from the Central Y at 67-09 108th St. at 6 a.m. on the day of the march, while the Borough Hall bus departs at 5:30 a.m.

Said Pat Toledo of Now: “We must send a strong message to the administration and our elected officials that we will not tolerate any rollback of our rights.”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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