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Womens March Looks To Change The Face Of Politics

Olivia Mitchell
NPR Illinois

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Springfield Sunday for the annual Women’s Day March. Demonstrators focused on opposing policies they say threaten women’s health and target immigrants.

The marches began in 2017 after President Donald Trump took office. Jennifer Welch, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, says the president’s policies are ambushing vulnerable people.

“Whether it’s the Trump-Pence administration support for white supremacists, or their attacks on women’s access to healthcare, or their attacks on immigrant and refugee communities, many people have many reasons to be concerned about this administration,” Welch said.

Welch said Planned Parenthood has two major goals on its Illinois agenda this year: repealing the Parental Notification Act, a law that requires juveniles to notify parents before getting an abortion; and requiring comprehensive sexual education in Illinois schools.

The Women’s March also focused on opposing policies aimed at restricting the rights of immigrants. Members of the Illinois Springfield Advocacy Network, an agency that campaigns for immigration rights, said 70,000 children were incarcerated in 2019 for trying to seek asylum in the country.

The group also said the U.S. government continues to hold children aged 4 months to 18 years.

Ultimately, the leaders of the march had a simple message for supporters: If they want to see change, they must get out and vote.

That message was echoed by Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a Democrat making a second run for Congress in the 13th District, which includes Springfield, Decatur and Champaign. She said women running and participating in elections are making an impression on a generation of girls.

“They saw more women enter the presidential field more than ever in the history of our nation,” Londrigan said. “Little girls looking up and seeing women, not just white women, women of color putting themselves out there to run for president matters.”

Londrigan is running against Stefanie Smith for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the primary will face incumbent Republican Rep. Rodney Davis this fall.

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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