Cache County Republicans attending their nominating convention Saturday morning were greeted by nearly 130 chanting pro-choice activists who were carrying hangers and picket signs in protest of Utah's new abortion law.
Most attendees of the convention chose to enter through the back door to avoid the crowd in front of Mount Logan Middle School. But avid protesters screamed "back-door Republicans want back-door abortions" at those who chose this route.Inside the school the focus was not on the happenings outside. Cache County Sheriff Sid Groll said most comments about the picketers were casual and no great impact was being seen in there.
"It's a great country we have with the freedom to express our opinions," Groll said. "As far as opinions go I have a sympathy toward choice but not a sympathy on abortion. The march seems to be pretty peaceful and I think it's great that we can express both sides."
As more Republicans entered, the chants became louder. Activists both young and old joined together with the chant, "Two, four, six, eight; We don't want this legislate. Not the church, not the state; we alone decide our fate."
A small number of pro-lifers also made an appearance to show their support for the Republicans and the abortion legislation. Gina Nilson, an outspoken pro-life activist in Cache Valley, said their small numbers were due to the fact that "pro-lifers have families and responsibilities." She also said many of their supporters were at the convention.
"We're also here to insulate the Republicans from the abuse and persecution of pro-abortionists," Nilson said.
After picketing at the convention for about 30 minutes, the protesters marched downtown to the Cache County Courthouse lawn. At the rally they listened to speakers who addressed the issue and how Cache County residents could make an impact.
Leona Hawks, a member of the Cache County Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said the question that needs to be addressed concerning abortion is not when life begins but who is given the freedom of choice. "Life is everywhere. Sperm has life."
Michele Parish, executive director of the Utah American Civil Liberties Union, said pro-choice advocates need to take a stand, and the fight must be continuous.
"I think it's time to tell the governor and his chief of staff we are part of Utah," Parish said. "And it's time to tell Evan Olsen and other legislators in Logan that there are people in their districts from Utah who are pro-choice."Concerning the original wording of the abortion bill that opponents said made it possible for a woman who had an abortion to be charged with first-degree murder, Parish said, "The legislators say `Oh, this was a mistake.' You betcha, it was a mistake of Olympic proportions."
The special session held to reword the abortion law is one measure that shows pro-choice advocates are being heard, Parish said.
"Sometimes slow learners have to have a lot of repetition," Parish said. "Every time the legislature gets together they'll see our friendly faces, and I hope every time the Republicans get together here, they'll see your friendly faces."
Offering the male point of view, Val Grant, a board member of Planned Parenthood, said men need to take responsibility. Illustrating his point, he pulled out a condom and urged everyone to be more responsible. "We're the dudes that pass the law. Let's stop it." Grant said.
Rebecca Elliot, executive coordinator for the Utah National Organization for Women, told ralliers that Utah is trying to control women with the legislation and said measures such as the international boycott are necessary to make changes by generating national outrage.
The boycott, she said, is not "playing dirty," but a "time-honored political tool" that says what Utah is doing is unjust to women.