Women's rights demonstrators rally at Oklahoma Capitol

by Juliana Keeping Published: April 29, 2012

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 Capitol.

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.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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