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WV women to join March on Washington

By NATALIE SCHREYER

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — This Saturday, women from across West Virginia will join thousands of others in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., a rally coordinated through Facebook in response to the election of Donald Trump. Nearly 1,000 West Virginia women might attend, according to the local organizers’ Facebook page.

Participants cited issues like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, women’s reproductive rights and income inequality as causes that motivated them to attend the rally.

Jeanette Rowsey, a 58-year-old resident of Cabell County, said she heard about it through friends on Facebook and “felt like I would regret it if I didn’t do it.”

She said her family has benefited from the ACA, which allowed her youngest son to stay on his parents’ plan until age 26 and her older son to get coverage despite having been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in high school. Although he later went into remission, Rowsey said she still worried that he wouldn’t get coverage.

“If the law is repealed, he is at the mercy of the insurance industry,” she said in an email.

Another Huntington resident traveling to Washington, Dawn Norman, 54, reflected a similar stance on the health care issue. She said she purchased a plan on the ACA marketplace for a lower price than she was offered by an insurance company before the ACA’s exchange was in place. She plans to carry a sign at the march with the names of West Virginia’s senators and representatives, along with a clear message: “We’re watching you.”

For Rowsey, women’s rights and civil rights also are key parts of the message she wants to emphasize. During the presidential campaign, Trump’s comments about women and minorities drew widespread condemnation. A video released by The Washington Post in early October, for example, showed Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault on the set of Access Hollywood in 2005.

If she could tell the president-elect one thing, Rowsey said, “I would say put yourself for one day in the shoes of a single mother in West Virginia.”

Like Rowsey, Norman supported Hillary Clinton, even volunteering to knock on doors and phone bank for her campaign in Ohio. Clinton’s loss, she said, was disappointing.

“I feel that, every time somebody tells their daughter that she too can be president, it’s not actually true until we have a woman president,” she said.

For her, the march is a way to send a message that issues from the ACA to reproductive rights and environmental concerns “can’t be ignored.”

Bus rides to Washington from seven West Virginia cities have been arranged through Rally, a company that coordinates rides to events across the country. All the rides are completely sold out. The trip from Charleston will depart just before 2 a.m. Saturday and leave Washington for the return to West Virginia that evening, after the rally. The price for the Charleston bus ride was $115, according to Rally’s website.

For those who can’t attend the march in D.C., a Charleston gathering has been scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Capitol building on the riverside steps. Alexandra Gallo, one of the event’s organizers and the development director at advocacy agency West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said she originally expected about 100 people to attend, but there are now more than 500 confirmations on the event’s Facebook page.

According to Gallo, the rally will focus on themes of unity and action, and will include speakers like Tara Martinez, of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, Nancy Guthrie, a former member of the House of Delegates, and Marquita Hutchens, a local faith leader.

“We’re most excited about this rally because it’s a chance for us all to stand together in solidarity,” Gallo said. “This is a powerful and inclusive movement.”

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