Many of the demonstrators wore purple and white, the colors of the suffrage movement that won women the right to vote in 1920. Some pushed their babies in strollers and Martin Fischer of Philadelphia waved a sign that said: "Grandparents for Choice."
Some of the hottest items at the Washington rally were stickers--"Another Catholic for Choice"--that were being passed out by several dozen members of a Catholic group that favors legal abortion.
Though their church has long been one of the nation's most powerful forces against abortion, "we're finding more and more Catholics willing to stand up and be public in their pro-choice views," said Margaret Conway, coordinator of state projects for Catholics for a Free Choice.
Although abortion is usually seen as a women's issue, it appeared that at least one-quarter of the crowd in Washington was male. "If you look around, there are almost as many men here as women, which demonstrates that this is the mainstream thinking in this country," said 70-year-old Harold Mayer of Milford, Conn.
It was also largely a white group. "How come there aren't any of us up there?" Elaine Brown, a 19-year-old black woman from the Bronx, N.Y., asked, indicating the huge stage full of luminaries from politics and entertainment. Dinkins, New York City's first elected black mayor, had addressed the rally earlier.
Abortion rights groups, noting that poor women and minorities would be most affected by proposed restrictions on abortion, are sensitive to criticism that they have failed to draw much enthusiasm from those communities. Shortly before the rally, a group called African American Women for Reproductive Freedom staged a breakfast for minority women participating in the rally.
And in what was called an "open letter to African-Americans," several black leaders of the abortion rights movement said: "African-American women and other women of color have the most to lose if access to legal abortion is denied in any way. Statistics show that we use the procedure with far greater frequency than white women. Yet we, far more than others, will lose access if the right to abortion is left to the politics of each of the 50 states."
Thousands of pro-choice activists and dozens of celebrities rallied in Los Angeles. A3