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AZ Unite Women Rally Draws Hundreds to the State Capitol to Protest Against "War on Women"

A sign brought to the state Capitol for the AZ Unite Women rally on Saturday
A sign brought to the state Capitol for the AZ Unite Women rally on Saturday
Photo by Eric Tsetsi

A crowd assembled at the Arizona Capitol today to put legislators on notice that they're pissed.

About 500 people voiced outrage toward recent laws passed in Arizona and around the county that restrict women's health and reproductive rights.

AZ Unite Women organized the event in response to what's been coined "the war on women."

"Medical decisions regarding my pregnancy should not be decided by legislators," says Lesley McKinley, a singer/songwriter who helped organize the Saturday event.

See the full slideshow from the AZ Unite Women rally, Saturday, April 28.

McKinley, who is 24 weeks pregnant, pointed to HB2036, which makes it illegal for women to have an abortion after 20 weeks and also requires women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, as a prime example of why so many women are outraged with "right-wing extremist lawmakers."

"[My husband] did not serve three tours in Iraq for the land of the free and the home of the brave to have his wife declared asecond-class citizen," McKinley says.

Photo by Eric Tsetsi
Many protesters at the rally were fed up with religious extremism being the basis for legislation.

The state Legislature also recently passed HB2625, which exempts employers from providing contraception in their healthcare coverage. The bill could soon be handed over to Governor Jan Brewer to be signed into law.

Republican lawmakers also are trying to defund Planned Parenthood by barring any non-abortion-related public funding to the women's health clinic.

"I've watched my beloved state circle the drain for the past year and a half because of the people in that building," Diane D'Angelo, chair of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission, said while pointing to the Capitol building. "They're bent on returning our country back to 1967."

Democratic state Senator Linda Lopez of District 29 also joined in the rally.

"The Republican party I serve with today ... was hijacked by right-wing religious extremists," Lopez says. "They want to create a theocracy like in Iran."

Across the country, Republicans have put forward about 900 bills that attempt to restrict women's health and reproductive rights, according to Unite Women.

On Thursday, April 26, 31 Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, including prospective GOP Vice Presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida.

Back in Arizona, a handful of Republicans have spoken out against the perceived extremism in their own party.

Paula Pennypacker, a Republican political activist and blogger, spoke at the AZ Unite Women rally.

She recently wrote on her blog, Paulapennypacker.com, "The message coming out of our state Legislature to women is: 'shut up, stop thinking, and vote Republican.'"

Former Republican legislators, Linda Binder, Susan Gerard, and Roberta Voss, also recently published an editorial in the Arizona Republic decrying the Legislature's focus on women's issues rather than the economy.

"We Republicans just a short decade ago passed Arizona's state law requiring insurance companies to provide fair coverage of contraception -- the very bill these extreme right Republicans now are working to repeal," Binder, Gerard, and Voss' editorial states.

McKinley and other speakers at the AZ Unite Women rally urged voters to take a stand against the extremists.

Lopez even urged Democrats to "temporarily" register as Independents so they could vote in the Republican primaries.

AZ Unite Women is a branch of Unite Women, a national non-profit organization formed about two months ago.

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