Meet the demonstrators behind the marches: Two marches, two messages

A look at the March for Life and the Womxn's March
Posted at 7:01 PM, Jan 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-20 00:46:51-05

BOISE, Idaho — Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Boise Saturday for two separate marches: one for women's rights, and the other for the rights of unborn children.

Organizer's of the Womxn's March on Idaho say the rally aims to empower diversity. This year, "women" is spelled with an "X" in an effort to promote equal rights for all, something attendee Jon Swarthout says is essential.

"It's so important to me that they understand equal rights and have strong female role models and understand the importance of the value and the power of womanhood," Swarthout said.

One of the speakers at the Womxn's March, Jennifer Palmeiri, is the author of the New York Times best selling novel, "Dear Madame President." She says today's event was inspiring.

"Today in Boise, the young women who spoke, there were so many of them. They were incredibly poised, incredibly empowered and really inspiring," said Palmeiri.

Women's marches were held around the country, with thousands of demonstrators gathering in Washington, and with many looking to channel two years of momentum and common cause against President Donald Trump into progressive policies.

This year, organizers were as young as high school age. One of the organizers of the march, Maddie Oppenheimer, says the expectations for high school students is sometimes pretty low.

"I think that pretty frequently youth and like students are like oh, you're just a student like you can't put on an event like this or you can't like possibly have a say in politics, but we do and I think that having youth put on this event just goes to show that we're capable of so much and just the women's march in general shows that we're still here and we're fighting for equality," said Oppenheimer.

Several other young women took to the stage, including Charlotte Iradukuna.

"I got a lot of black women and girls come up to me and we were talking Swahili and we were just hyping each other up and it was great and I think and a lot of older women who were like that was so great, I've been doing this since the sixties and that was powerful," said Iradukunda.

The Womxn's March focused on issues like equal rights for women, and women's reproductive rights-- including abortion rights.

Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-life marchers filled the capitol steps advocating for an end to legalized abortion in the March for Life.

Pro-life activists have been marching every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark supreme court decision that legally allows women to undergo an abortion, for 46 years. For advocates like Lindsey Pope, it's a way to support those who can't support themselves.

"Its wonderful that there's so many people to support life and stand up for those who cant, the little babies,” said Pope.

Many of the advocates in the crowd faced the option of having an abortion themselves. Pope, among the hundreds marching for life today, marched in honor of her son.

"He was born at 7:23pm on thanksgiving day and he passed away at 8:51pm, so we had him for an hour and 28 minutes,” said Pope. "We found out at 20 weeks he would be born without a brain, and we decided to keep him even though we were told it would be best to terminate him."

Pope says she did what she felt was right.

"I didn’t want to risk not having the chance to hold my baby and even if he did go to heaven, it wasn’t my life to take away," Pope said. "It was an absolute blessing, it was a miracle and we didn’t know if we would have a still born or lose him at the 20 week ultrasound and everyday was a struggle but once we got to hold him it was an absolute miracle and a grace from God."

Advocates say the march, falling on the same day as the annual Women's March, has faced questions and assumptions. Attendees say "pro-life" and "pro-woman" aren't antonyms.

"People think sometimes if you're pro-life you're like against women, its totally not against women,” said pro-life advocate Kerri Vaughn. “There's a lot of people out there who support women if they've had hard choices to make and we support women if they've had hard choices to make and we support them through all walks of life.”

Vaughn says she wants people to know the March for Life is not against women, but working for the unborn.

"Let people be aware that we’re a loving group, were not against women in any way.. we are trying to stand up for the rights of the unborn and hopefully get a word out that,” said Vaughn. "I do believe women should have equal rights but it should never be a choice to kill your child. A woman starts as a baby, she starts in the womb, their rights start in the womb so if you’re killing them before they’re ever born you're really just kind of nixing her right to live.”

A much larger rally took place Friday in Washington D.C. where Vice President Mike Pence took the stage advocating for the right to life