Chanting "Not the church, not the state, we alone decide our fate," 2,500 to 3,000 Utahns filled the Capitol Rotunda to protest the abortion limitation bill Gov. Norm Bangerter signed into law Friday.
The group then walked to the governor's mansion, where they hung wire clothes hangers and carnations on the fence and waved signs and chanted for almost an hour. The Saturday protest was peaceful, although a young man who said he was against abortion caused a minor disturbance when he started ripping pro-choice signs up.Bangerter was not at the mansion to answer cries of "We want Norm" and "We want Norm out."
A number of lawmakers and representatives of pro-choice groups spoke during the rally at the Capitol. They delivered their messages from behind an oversized "tombstone" dedicated to women who died from "illegal, unsafe abortions."
"We live in dangerous times when the governor and legislators take away women's rights," said Lynne Tempest, editor of Network magazine and emcee for the gathering. "This is not an issue of the sanctity of life, but an issue of control."
Tempest quoted a letter written by Bangerter to bill sponsor Sen. LeRay McAllister, R-Orem, in which the governor said Utah would be "legal pioneers."
"Pioneers," she said, "venture into unexplored territory. This territory is all too familiar."
Passage of the abortion limitation bill means that the "most basic right accorded" to people everywhere "was taken away from the women of Utah," said M. Walker Wallace, chairman of the honorary board of Planned Parenthood of Utah. "The right to control one's own body. A small group of men with extreme arrogance have forced their narrow view of morality on the women of the state."
Rep. David Jones, D-Salt Lake, said the argument is a religious argument. "The underlying issue is when does the soul enter the body. Every representative and senator made a decision based on his own personal belief."
"This is not the end, it's the middle," said Sen. Karen Shepherd, D-Salt Lake. "Unfortunately, the middle is the longest part." She said that only 11 women serve in the Legislature, and she told women if they want to protect their rights, they need to get involved.
"There are 2,000 people here. If each of you finds 10 more and gets involved, it would be the greatest pyramid scheme in history," Shepherd said.
Rep. Paula Julander, D-Salt Lake, told the crowd that as a nurse between 1959 and 1973, when abortion was illegal, she was "burdened with the job often of holding the hands of women who died of illegal abortions."
"I'm very sad today that the state of Utah is taking the lead to reverse the progress made in women's health care."
The bill is neither pro-family or pro-fetus, said Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, medical director for Planned Parenthood. "I have never been in any state that did so little for its children."
Debora Threedy, a law professor at the University of Utah, said she was "disturbed" to watch "this bill rammed through the Legislature." The bill, she said, "says Utah women are untrustworthy and incapable of moral judgment."