"When I was in high school, everything was abstinence: 'Don't do this,'" recalls Laura Groetsch, a 23-year-old elementary-education student at California University of Pennsylvania. "We were taught how babies were made, but they never told us about STDs. Abstinence went in one ear and out the other. People are gonna do it anyway."
On April 25 at 4 a.m. Groetsch will be one of about 200 people from the Pittsburgh area groggily boarding buses for Washington, D.C., to attend the national March for Women's Lives at noon, which organizers hope will be the largest march for women's rights in two decades. It will focus on the arguably jeopardized right to legal abortion, improving health care and contraception access for young and poor women, and allowing more contraceptive and abortion access for women served by international health organizations.
"This is educating a lot of people who don't know what's out there, who don't have access to contraceptives," says Groetsch, a South Park native. It's Groetsch's first time attending such a rally, but she says she's convinced a female relative to attend. "She's been to a march in Washington before. It wasn't pro-choice, it was pro-life. But I've convinced her to go to this one. I've had a couple friends in the past year who've had to have abortions. She's become very good friends with them, too. ... She's pretty much done a 180" - despite encountering protestors with large posters depicting rare late-term abortions outside a march fundraiser at Chatham College several weeks ago. In March, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania was one of six abortion providers receiving subpoenas from the Department of Justice seeking patients' medical records, trying to build its defense against lawsuits challenging the recently enacted ban on "partial-birth" abortions - a rare later-term procedure. PPWP President Kim Evert says the procedure isn't even done at their local health centers.
Joy Sabl, of Point Breeze, recalls attending one of the last big D.C. women's marches in the 1980s. "All of my roommates drove down" from Boston, she recalls, "including one roommate who didn't consider herself pro-choice ... She came around to the idea that you can personally find abortion abhorrent, but you can support the right to choose. ... We all want fewer abortions."