If pro-choice activists ever want to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on the steps of the state Capitol, they'll have to elbow in front of Arkansas Right to Life after the 2010 election. That's when Secretary of State Charlie Daniels' current term ends, along with his staff's authority to book events at the Capitol.
Mary Ouellette, president of the Little Rock chapter of the National Organization of Women, tried last year to reserve the steps for a pro-choice rally for this Sunday; she said she was told that Arkansas Right to Life (an earlier march is pictured above) had that date already booked, and asked if she was trying to disrupt the venerable tradition of the annual anti-abortion march. Her organization was welcome to reserve space around the side of the Capitol, or in the rotunda, she was told -- out of the public's, and the TV cameras', sight.
We checked with Daniels' office about the procedures for locking up a date years in advance. Spokeswoman Natasha Naragon said groups can reserve space on a first-come, first-served basis through 2010 -- when Daniels' current term of office ends -- and Arkansas Right to Life has dibs on the Roe v. Wade anniversary through then.
As for counter protests, Ouellette said she didn't reserve space elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, but marchers will line both sides of Capitol Avenue to voice their support of abortion rights. Last year, about 25 counter-protesters showed up. They'll meet at the corner of Victory and Capitol at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.