For NARAL President Kate Michelman, it was her last time addressing the crowd of some 1,300 politicians, socialites, activists, and intelligentsia as head of the activist organization.
For Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., NAACP President Julian Bond and best-selling author Anna Quindlen, the evening was a chance to pay homage to Michelman and to rally liberals to counter the wave of anti-abortion rights supporters and practices they say have swept the nation.
Guests at the event, held in the Washinton Hilton included DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe; Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., David Wu, D-Ore., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes and Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell.
Michelman said she decided to devote all her time to getting a Democrat in the White House because the future of abortion rights is at great risk under the Bush administration.
However, she has worked for abortion rights for over 30 years, she said, because of a "searing and humiliating experience of a pre-Roe abortion," and her desire to make sure "no women would ever have to go through ... humiliating ordeals that women in my generation went through."
Clinton said that anti-abortion forces "are counting on the vast majority of fair-minded Americans to be ignorant, to be unaware ... They think they can accomplish their goals as Americans sleep."
"We are one Supreme Court justice away from turning the clock back on women and on (every other progressive policy)," she said.
According to the NAACP's Bond, "Some think that Roe v. Wade has ended the unavailability of abortion. They are wrong."
Bond reminisced for "the days when the president picked the Supreme Court, and not the other way around."
The animated dinner was at the opposite end of the spectrum from a rally that took place earlier that day, in which thousands of Americans from numerous states joined together in front of the White House for speeches and songs before marching to the Supreme Court.
Around noon, anti-abortion rights advocates listened to a broadcast call-in from President Bush, who encouraged them to continue their fight. "All life is sacred and worthy of protection," he told the protesters, adding it was important to "change hearts and minds, one person at a time."
Michelman said that Bush has become the only president in the United States "to make abortion a federal crime."
Clinton spoke of the commonality between people fighting for affirmative action, civil rights, and the right to choose abortion.
"While we are fighting the battle for choice," she said, "we need to be making allies with other groups that are similarly seeing their rights being eroded."
In her view of the opposition, "Evidence doesn't matter, science doesn't matter, privacy doesn't matter, the Constitution doesn't matter."
She added, "If we don't begin to take back the debate ... we will wake up in a country that we do not recognize."
Best-selling author Anna Quindlen, who emceed the event, said that motherhood is so critical and so challenging that "to force anyone into its service is immoral."
She asked the audience, "Who decides? Is it the people who put glue into locks and bullets into doctors?"
Bond spoke of a Republican plan to change the eight-minute video shown at the Lincoln Memorial, so that it no longer shows protests for civil rights, gay rights, and abortion rights.
He said, "When one of our national parties is shameless, the other one can't afford to be spineless."
"The right to reproductive freedom is as basic as the right to eat at a lunch counter, or the right to vote, or the right of ... individuals to get married," he said.