MOSCOW — About 400 people exercised their First Amendment guarantee of free speech and to peaceably assemble in separate marches on separate sides of the abortion issue Saturday afternoon in Moscow.

Wednesday will mark the 47th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, a 7-2 decision that overturned an abortion law from Texas that legalized abortion throughout the United States in 1973. Before the ruling, abortion was legal in Hawaii, New York, Alaska and Washington. The court ruled a woman’s right to choose an abortion is protected by privacy rights guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.

The national March for Life march began one year later in 1974. The Women’s March started Jan. 21, 2017, as a worldwide protest one day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The Women’s March on the Palouse group of about 200 people focused on women’s reproductive rights, equal rights for women and minorities and the importance of speaking up and out about the direction of the country.

The March for Life group of about 200 people focused on ending legal abortion in the country and respect for all human life that they argue begins at conception.

The Women’s March on the Palouse started downtown at Moscow City Hall and marched east on Third Street to East City Park for a rally.

The March for Life gathered at Logos School on Baker Street and marched east along the West Pullman Road and Third Street to U.S. Highway 95, where they turned south and gathered for a rally and prayer in Friendship Square Park in downtown Moscow.

Some signs from the Women’s March on the Palouse in East City Park read, “protect reproductive rights,”; “N.O.W. means now, E.R.A. for our era,”; “Voting is our superpower,”; “keep abortion legal,”; and “pass the Equal Rights Amendment.”

Some signs from the March for Life in Friendship Square Park read, “choose life,”; “abortion stops a beating heart,”; “stop the real war: abortion kills 3,600 baby Americans everyday,”; “Planned Parenthood profits from aborted baby parts,”; and “abortion the ultimate child abuse.”

Dulce Kersting-Lark and Sandra Kelly organized the Women’s March on the Palouse this year for the first time. Sam Paul, of the Moscow Right to Life Chapter, organized the March for Life for the fourth consecutive year.

“We would like to take a stand for the innocent and petition all of those listening to do the same,” Paul said. “We believe life is sacred, that god created us in his image.”

Paul hopes the march will gain the attention of legislators so that they will reverse Roe v. Wade.

“Life is precious because it is something God has made,” Paul said. “We hope to raise awareness so our legislators reverse what nine people in (Washington) D.C. declared.”

Kersting-Lark attended the first Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in 2017, which was a “political awakening” for her. She decided to help organize this year’s event because she felt the march needed to continue in the Palouse.

“I’m concerned about the future of our country; we really value everyone being treated equitably,” Kersting-Lark said. “We are all in this together, and if people need assistance, then I want to be able to help them.”

Celia Forrest, 76, of Uniontown, helped pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Whitman County in the 1970s. She still advocates for equal rights, as she has for most of her adult life.

Forrest said she has seen progress made on women’s issues over the past 40 years. Forrest cited the #MeToo movement for more attention being paid today to sexual harassment and rape.

“It was deaf ears when we were talking about those issues in the ’70s,” Forrest said.

Virginia recently was the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which will likely set up a legal battle as to whether the amendment will become a part of the U.S. Constitution, because Congress set a deadline for ratification in 1982. At that time, 35 states had ratified the amendment, which was three states shy of the necessary 75 percent. Nevada, Illinois and Virginia have ratified the amendment in 2017, 2018 and 2020, respectively.

“The concept is so simple,” Forrest said. “Everybody in their right mind agrees that everybody in the United States should have equal rights and responsibilities, and don’t tell me we don’t need it.”

“I feel that it is very important for us to be seen and heard,” Louise Davison of Moscow said. “I’m very disturbed by what’s happening in the United States, I’m almost afraid for what’s taking place in the nation.”

Ren Gron and Pat Bates, both of Clarkston, and Carolyn Cress, of Pullman, came to the Women’s March on the Palouse because they care about America.

Gron said she stands for being kind, supporting each other and speaking up.

“Everybody’s got to do their part and work for a better America,” Cress said noting that a better America begins “when everybody who is eligible to vote can vote.”

“I care about America and our values and our norms that are really being challenged now,” Bates said. Bates held a sign that read, “America is great because of women, people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants and people of diverse religions. Women’s rights are human rights.”

Diana Hicke, of Moscow, joined the Women’s March on the Palouse “so that no one is marginalized.”

“I feel very strongly that the government shouldn’t have a say in women’s reproductive rights,” Jane Cooper of Moscow said.

Across town, Bekah Shelton firmly believes that “life begins at conception in the mother’s womb.” She’s against the termination of any pregnancy. “I have to be, to be consistent in my beliefs,” Shelton said. “It gets really tricky in cases of nonconsensual sex and pregnancy cases where the woman is left alone, but I’m pro-woman as well, and am prepared to help as many women as possible who are in those really hard situations.”

Sarah Appel, of Colfax, was at her third March for Life.

“I love people,” Appel said. “This is an opportunity to show we love people.”

The Rev. Jeff Core, pastor at St. Thomas More Newman Center at Washington State University in Pullman, joined a group of students who had planned to march Saturday.

“Life begins at conception,” Core said. “We are encouraging the next generation to make good choices so that life can be promoted.”

Robert Jones, of Normandy Park, Wash., one of the students who traveled with Core, believes all life matters, and peacefully spreading that message is important even in a small town.

“I hope we can spread our belief that all life matters,” Jones said. “If we can change one mind, we can change all of them.”

Jenny Story of Moscow wanted to stand up for the unborn Saturday, but she also wanted to let women who are struggling and considering an abortion know “there are people who love them and support them.”

Wells may be contacted at mwells@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2275.

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