The trip from Southwest Louisiana to Baton Rouge was a three hour drive. Surprisingly, many of the protesters were from that region of the state though there were also protesters from LSU and New Orleans. The males who attended were husbands or just men who cared about the cutbacks on women's reproductive healthcare or salaries, though the mass majority were females ranging from all ages, children and grandmothers, some of which had already fought this fight before and were angry to deal with this again.
Unite Women's priorities are: Women's rights and civil Rights, women's reproductive rights, women's economic equality and worker's rights, protecting women and children from violence, voting rights, women's wellness, and women’s safety.
The goal of the protest was:
• To inform women, men, policy makers, and media about issues experienced by women
• To advance women's roles in politics and policy-making so that women's concerns are met
• To increase the role of women in the political and legislative process to advocate for women's rights
• To nurture intergenerational networks of women so they can respond to a range of issues across their lifespans
• Fulfill their potential as women and as human beings in our society.
Ashley Baggett, the state Coordinator for Unite Women, introduced speakers to the floor during the protest. Some speakers were professors, and some were just women who gave the stories of their lives and why the bills trying to be passed through Louisiana and other states were an affront to women.
One woman named Tassie Burnette, armed with an electric guitar and her voice gave a poetic message through a collaborated self-written song between her and her husband as can be seen in the video above.
Alecia Long, Associate Professor of History at LSU spoke about how she was there at the protest not to represent LSU, but as a woman horrified by the current events going on in Louisiana. She reminded the women that they recently had to turn in taxes to the state, and as such, entitled these women fair and full representation as a citizen of the state. In her speech she comments that Louisiana legislatures consider themselves to be small government, but what small government seems to be to them is to be just small enough to have the ability to know what's going on in residents' bedrooms or to get into women’s body parts and that is not what small government needs to be about. Her speech involved the Comstock Act in 1872 which made all lewd material illegal, including all forms of contraception. The message behind this lesson is that in the entirety of history, it wasn't that long ago when women couldn't have access to contraception and the right could easily be rolled back. She acknowledged that for the longest time the main issue has been abortion, and it’s a difficult choice for anyone to make, but in the end it is an individual choice and that’s a constitutionally protected right that citizens should demand to stop being infringed upon. “What underwrites the right abortion is the right to privacy,” she said, “What is currently under threat is our right to privacy,” another protection under the constitution.
During the speech Dr. Long quoted a line from Benjamin Franklin. He ran a column and would answer questions, and one question he received was, "What are women for?" Franklin replied, "Women are to gratify men’s passion.” Dr. Long used this to link her point to a recent blog called Daily Color in which the blogger wrote an answer to that same question – women are important because of their closeness to nature. In other words, the blogger wrote that women’s purpose is their ability to reproduce. With the table set, Dr. Long finalized the issue by saying all that matters is choice; whether women want to be mothers or not doesn’t matter. The real answer to the question of "What are women for?" is "Anything they want to be for." Any other reply, Dr. Long said, is self offensive.
Another issue Dr. Long tackled was that women only received 67 cents to the dollar in comparison to men working the same job and that year after year legislators have failed to give women equal pay in Louisiana. Dr. Long wrapped up her speech by saying a quote from a man who oversaw civil rights court cases during the civil rights movement and repeated it twice due to its implications. That quote was, "It is well for people to know their rights even if we are denied them.”
Just as she wrapped up her speech with that quote three military jets in perfect formation flew overhead of the crowd, earning "yays" and applause. Not skipping a beat, Dr. Long joked, "We paid for those too," before stepping down for the next speaker.
Overall there were ten arranged speakers not including the moment when the microphone was left open for anyone in the audience to approach. Three brave souls gave their stories, one just being a man with a bright orange sign saying, "Respect the Uterus," and announcing to the crowd that as a lover of women the way they've been treated is unforgivable then he stepped down.