Women unite over rights

Rally in Coeur d'Alene among those held nationwide

Phyllis Kobaly of Spirit Lake was among those who participated in Saturday's UniteWomen.org march and rally in downtown Coeur d'Alene and City Park.

COEUR d'ALENE - Donna Sellers says enough is enough when it comes to what she believes are measures against women.

Sellers was among about 25 people who participated in the "Unite Against the War on Women" rally on Saturday in downtown and City Park.

The Coeur d'Alene event was among those held nationwide organized by UniteWomen.org, which was founded in February to protect women's rights.

"I am a human rights activist, and I believe several recent measures target women," Sellers said. "I take a stand against that."

Sellers and rally activists support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which recently passed the U.S. Senate.

The Act provides services to violent crimes victims and agencies that give aid to them. It provides access to legal and social services for domestic violence victims and provides training to judges, attorneys, police and prosecutors.

Twenty-two people in Idaho were killed last year by a domestic partner, according to the office of Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

Sellers, from Spokane, at one point in her life had to utilize the services of the North Idaho Violence Prevention Center.

"Those services are valuable," she said. "I think there would be far more damage done by not renewing (the Act)."

UniteWomen is keeping an eye on measures requiring women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound first. The Idaho Legislature this year didn't follow suit with Texas and Virginia on such a measure due to concerns it represents an intrusive government, but the women's group realizes it may be revisited in 2013.

"I'm worried about my daughter," said Linda Jo Park of Rathdrum while finishing up the march down Sherman Avenue to the park.

Other concerns include measures attempting to "criminalize" contraception and family planning and bills to de-fund Planned Parenthood and to allow employers to opt out of contraception coverage for religious reasons.

The group also sees other threats, including on education, workplace equity, voter suppression and crimes against women and children.

According to UniteWomen, the organization has garnered more than 21,000 members nationwide and nearly 150 in Idaho in its first two months of operation.

Tonya Moreno, from Sandpoint and Idaho's liaison for UniteWomen, said she believes the rallies are important because they shows that Idaho women are standing with women all over the country against proposed and enacted laws in other conservative states that "undermine" women's access to contraception and that make it harder for women to fight wage discrimination in court (such as with Wisconson's repeal of equal pay legislation).

"My life experience that is tied to these measures is the fact that I am a woman who deserves the same human rights to safety, equality, dignity and self-determination as anyone else," Moreno said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the debate over recent mandates, the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, last month held their Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom in opposition to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate that was unveiled in January.

The new mandate requires nearly all private health insurance plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs. The mandate is the result of Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," passed in 2010.

Opponents believe it violates Freedom of Religion.

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