On the eve of the massive abortion rights demonstration planned here today, organizers called on more than a dozen well-known Hollywood actors and singers to help spotlight their fight to keep abortion legal.
Surrounded by photographers and television cameras, actress Morgan Fairchild of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee said at a news conference Saturday that women defending the right to an abortion "have been too complacent for too long. We thought we and our daughters were safe."
The Supreme Court's decision to hear a Missouri case this year that could weaken or possibly even overturn the 16-year-old Roe vs. Wade ruling that first established nationwide abortion rights ended that complacency, protest leaders said.
The planned march was shaping up as one of the largest political rallies in recent years. Compared to a demonstration three years ago, which drew slightly more than 100,000 people in a failed effort to win approval for the equal rights amendment, organizers said they were expecting at least 250,000 marchers today.
"I think we're going to close Washington down," said Kate Michelman, head of the National Abortion Rights Action League.
The news conference Saturday, held at a hotel serving as headquarters for the demonstration, attracted about 50 reporters, 11 television cameras and almost two dozen photographers.
More like a political rally than a question-and-answer session, the briefing was dominated by speeches from protest leaders that were frequently interrupted by cheers from the hundreds of activists who filled the room.
"We're going to stand up to Operation Rescue (the anti-abortion group that has picketed abortion clinics), which we call Operation Bully," said Molly Yard, president of the National Organization for Women, which is sponsoring the march. "Tomorrow is only a beginning. Women will not go back to the back alleys. . . . We will build a political army."
After the press conference, organizers staged a photo session with celebrities ranging from long-time activists like Fairchild and Gloria Steinem to others, such as actress Melanie Mayron of the television show "thirty-something," who had not previously participated in many political events.
The Hollywood delegation to the demonstration includes more than 250 members of the entertainment industry from both Los Angeles and New York, leaders said, including celebrities such as Polly Bergen, Glenn Close, Judy Collins, Jill Eikenberry, Penny Marshall, Leonard Nimoy, Susan Sarandon and Michael Tucker.