For Madeline Benham, a demonstration Saturday on the steps of the Capitol in Oklahoma City was, in part, a demonstration against backpedaling.
Benham rallied in the same spot for women's rights in 1973 at a demonstration to support the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Oklahoma was among the 15 states that did not ratify the amendment banning discrimination based on sex.
“We didn't get that passed,” Benham said. “I didn't worry about it too much. It still seemed to me the world was a possible place. You could get along.”
Decades later, Benham said women's rights — especially reproductive rights — are under attack.
“These rights were really important, and we thought we had it licked,” she said.
“Increasingly in the last few years, that's changing,” she said. “Those rights that we fought so hard for seem to be disappearing. They're under attack. We have to think about the next generation of women, not just us.”
250 join in
Benham was among more than 250 protesters Saturday at the state
UniteWomen.org organized “United Against the War on Women” marches and rallies across the nation Saturday in response to legislation around the country that it perceives as attacking women's rights, “from reproductive rights to voting rights to human rights,” according to its website.
Carrying signs such as “My body is not a battleground” and “I have a brain and I'm not afraid to use it,” the demonstrators characterized Oklahoma lawmakers' laser focus on anti-abortion measures as frustrating and insulting.
“We're taking steps backward,” said demonstrator Julie Droke.
Women and men in attendance said measures such as the personhood act, also known as Senate Bill 1433, take away a woman's control over her own body. The bill would declare that life begins at conception.
“That's not progress,” Droke said.
“That's not even status quo backward.”
Oklahoma lawmakers have approved more than 30 anti-abortion measures since the GOP gained control of the House after 2004.
Droke and others who attended said they wished lawmakers would turn their focus on issues such as education and health care, which could help improve the quality of the lives of children already born in Oklahoma.
Ashley Skinnell, an organizer of the Oklahoma rally, said the event is not just about the anti-abortion legislation in Oklahoma, like the personhood bill.
She said laws across the nation are targeting women, and she'd like people to know more about these measures.
“Topeka proposed legislation that decriminalizes domestic violence in order to balance their budget,” Skinnell said. “There's a lot going on. There's over 1,000 pieces of legislation that not everyone has heard about.”
The demonstration began at noon Saturday with a march from the First Unitarian Church to the Capitol for a 1 p.m. rally. Speakers hailed from groups such as the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Trust Women and the League of Women Voters.
Senate Bill 1433 did not get a hearing Thursday before the GOP-controlled House of Representatives adjourned. The Senate passed the measure in February.
While dead for the year, the bill left plenty of controversy in its wake.
Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, tried to get an amendment into the measure that said it was an act against unborn children for men to waste sperm, which drew national attention.