By 10 a.m. today, police said 800 buses had arrived at RFK Stadium; another 300 were parked at suburban lots and crowds on the Metro packed both usual trains and extra runs to bring crowds to the Mall. Sponsors had received a permit for a crowd of up to 750,000 people.
At the Metro stops, which were jammed at some points, such as the RFK Stadium/Armory and Metro Center stations, NARAL workers directed the pedestrians and sold T-shirts to a crowd that seemed buoyant, mostly women of all ages, but also with men and children. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder in some places on the Mall...
The rally on the Mall will be followed by a march through downtown, beginning at noon. Marchers plan to return to the Mall for a rally at Third Street N.W. from about 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Apparently our friend Trapper John has a Blackberry, because we just recieved this email:
A million women, men, and kids standing up for basic freedom on the Mall. Pretty cool.
Finally, we need to remember that the policies of our government don't only affect the reproductive choices of women in this country, and the our foreign aid policies regarding women's reproductive health and choices have far ranging effects. This point is made persuasively by Kavita Ramdas of the Global Fund For Women:
RAMDAS: Absolutely. I think the... I think what we've learned is that there's no way you can separate the multitude of factors.
An example Ethiopian statistics today. 13.2 million Ethiopians live below the starvation point. When you have five to six children on average as a young Ethiopian mother before the age of 20 one of the reasons abortions happen is because mothers cannot bear to watch their grown children, their living children dying of starvation. Because they cannot possibly feed another mouth.
And this is what we have firsthand information from women on the ground. So do you work on economic opportunity for those poor women? Do you work on food aid? Do you also make sure that if they are having abortions using wires and needles and herbs and poison that they can do so in a way that doesn't jeopardize their health. Otherwise you have a situation of six orphaned children who don't have anybody to take care of them.
And I think that's where it's very important to look at these things together and holistically.
BRANCACCIO: Well, I was trying to crunch the numbers. And I... you see $34 million that the US is not sending to the UN Population Fund. And then I see that you, your fund, can give out, what, about a million dollars a year for this particular type of thing. There seems to be a gap.
RAMDAS: There's a huge gap. And I think it's a gap that we couldn't possibly hope to replace only with private philanthropy. Which is why I think advocacy to raise awareness about this issue, both in the United States and in other parts of the world is so desperately needed. The march that you referred to a few minutes ago is one example...
BRANCACCIO: In Washington...
RAMDAS: ...of that kind in Washington, is one example of that kind of advocacy. What's striking about this march is that women from many other countries are coming to join US women in this effort. Because as a woman in Afghanistan said to me a few months ago, and I was traveling in Kabul, nothing can change for us over here, despite our best efforts, if we don't have a policy in the United States that also supports women's rights.