Hundreds of men, women and children gathered outside the Capitol on Saturday to rally in protest of recently enacted laws pertaining to women’s rights, employment and reproductive health.
At the event, many women and men shared their stories about why they continue to fight for these rights. Among the events speakers were Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, and the Rev. Stephen Welch, a member of the Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Roys said this past legislative session has seen many transgressions against women, including the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act and an attempt to pass a mining bill that would streamline mining regulations, which she said if passed would have caused birth defects in fetuses.
Roys also criticized a recently enacted bill requiring doctors to administer what she referred to as an unnecessary physical examination before giving an abortion-inducing drug to women.
Roys said all women need to band together and not give up on the rights that their mothers and grandmothers have fought and died for in order to achieve them. She said she is running for Congress because “enough is enough.”
“We are fighting a multigenerational war for a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion, a complete sexual education and equal pay,” Roys said. “It is important to call out the hypocrisy and anti-women misogyny that still exists today, such as in the comments made by Sen. [Glenn] Grothman [R-West Bend] about how money is more important to men. We must prioritize equal rights for women, and together we will be successful.”
Welch, senior pastor of the First Congressional United Church of Christ, said he believed the religious right does not speak for those who are really religious.
Welch said he and his congregation members support a woman’s right to contraception and birth control, as well as the need for children to receive a complete education, including comprehensive sexual health education.
“It is immoral for the government or religious groups to interfere with a woman’s standard of care,” Welch said. “These men who make these laws that pertain to women’s health are following a self-serving agenda, and we need to defend a woman’s constitutional rights.”
Welch said he is appalled that the government would attempt to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. In memory of his grandmothers and out of respect for his mother, Welch called upon legislators to reject laws that hurt women’s right to justice and religious liberty.
Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said he believes what Democrats call a “war on women” is a ploy used by Democrats across the nation to gain more political momentum because they are losing power and growing desperate.
“There is no war on women. It is a very sad thing that the only thing the Democrats can do at this point is try to make the Republicans look like the bad guys, like evil people. That is the only message that they are sending,” Mikalsen said.