Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

A group of Mother Lode residents will be picketing in downtown Sonora every Thursday afternoon to express their viewpoints on women's rights.

The first protest occurred in front of Courthouse Square on Washington Street from 1 p.m. until about 3 p.m. last Thursday and consisted of a handful of women and at least one man.

"We were talking about all the issues that are on the forefront right now and how women in the past have worked so hard on women's rights," said Margaret Klein, of Sonora, who participated in the event.

Klein said she wanted to show her support for widespread access to birth control and for "a woman's right to choose."

Participant Ruth Godbout said the assembly was meant to be apolitical but that most of the signs had liberal undertones. Protesters who brought pro-Obama signs were asked by the rest of the group to put them away.

She said the group, which mainly consisted of middle-aged and older women, would welcome people of all political parties and ages, and both females and males.

"We would love to have Republicans show up … because they have bodies too," Godbout said.

She heard about the protest after it had already been organized, but suspects controversial comments made by politicians this year had sparked the idea to rally.

One of the comments she noted was made in August by a Missouri Senate candidate, Republican Rep. Todd Akin, that a female will not likely become pregnant if she is a victim of "legitimate rape."

The other remark was stated in February by talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who referred to Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke as a "prostitute" and a "slut" following her statement opposing a bill that would allow employers to refuse to provide contraception for religious reasons.

Godbout participated because she wants men to take women more seriously and said that women are underrepresented in Congress.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics,women currently hold 90 of the 535 seats in the 112th U.S. Congress, making up 16.8 percent of the House and Senate.

"Women's issues are our own," Godbout said. "They don't belong to any legislator. They don't belong to any men who try to speak for us."

Some passers-by did not approve of the demonstration, including awoman who gave the group a thumbs down in response, but most of the reactions were in favor of it, according to Godbout.

"I couldn't believe the support we got from people who were driving by," she said. "It was really energizing."