By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features
As women rallied across the country in a national day of action against the rush of abortion bans, New York City said New York State would become a sanctuary and the city would seek to create a fund to help women who cannot afford to obtain abortion services.
Hundreds turned out in downtown Manhattan across from the US Court Building at a rally to #StopTheBans – the epidemic of increasingly draconian anti-abortion legislation designed to force the Supreme Court to render a new decision they believe will overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade which established that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until the time the fetus was viable outside the womb, 24 weeks. Many states not only put significant barriers that have forced clinics to close, chipping away at the “undue burden” provision that has endured subsequent Supreme Court scrutiny, leaving only one or two clinics in a state, but all but 15 states deny Medicaid funding to cover abortions, while many private insurance companies also do not cover abortion services.
“A right without true access is merely a privilege,” said New York Abortion Access Fund’s Maddy Durante.
At the federal level, Republicans in Congress have tried multiple times to end funding to Planned Parenthood despite the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition of any federal funds to be spent on abortion services, is . Now, the Trump Administration is allowing private insurers to offer policies that do not cover maternity care, dismissing the rising rates of maternal mortality, especially among minorities and lower income women, as Trump reverses the gains in access to care made under Obamacare.
But though New York State’s recently adopted Reproductive Health Act not only allows for abortions beyond 24 weeks of gestation in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the fetus is not viable, and also expands the professionals authorized to conduct abortions to certain physicians assistants, nurses and midwives, if the Supreme Court adopts the concept of fetal personhood, as these new extreme laws propose, that could jeopardize the legality of abortions everywhere.
That is a reason that many of the speakers at the Tuesday Stop the Bans Day of Action rally in New York called for a renewed rise in a nationwide movement to protect reproductive freedom, and insisted, “We are not going back.”
Here are highlights from the rally:
“From Alabama to Ohio, extremist politicians are trying to ban safe, legal abortions,” declared Leann Risk, associate director, community organizing for Planned Parenthood, NYC. “Activists in all 50 states are engaged in a massive show of strength. We will not stand for the bans, not now, not ever, no way.”
Laura McQuade, President and CEO Of Planned Parenthood NYC, declared, “We say to delusional politicians, stop the abortion bans. ..We are facing a sick attempt to strip us of fundamental humanity and autonomy. This is a coordinated attempt to drive care underground, to force a showdown in the Supreme Court…
“Fact: 73% of Americans do not want to overturn Roe; nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime.
“These are not lawmakers, but lawbreakers, trying to dismantle rights we have had for nearly five decades. We won’t stand for blatant injustice against our reproductive rights. Abortion is the law of the land – legal today, will be legal tomorrow, as long as Planned Parenthood (which has existed over 103 years) and ACLU and so many others exist.”
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer declared, “It’s time for NYC to become the first in the nation to directly fund abortion care – guarantee access to abortion regardless of the ability to pay.” He is advocating a New York City Abortion Access Fund.
Gloria Allred, the high-profile attorney, revealed her own terrifying experience, nearly bleeding to death when she was in her 20s because of a back alley abortion after being raped at gunpoint.
“As I lay hemorrhaging in a bathtub, [the abortionist] said, ‘It’s your problem now.’ Back then, the only time you would be admitted to a hospital is if you were bleeding to death. I was running 106 degree fever. I was put in a ward with others suffering after an illegal abortion” where the patients were shamed.
“The nurse told me, ‘This should teach you a lesson,’” Allred said. “It taught me a lesson all right: abortion should be safe, legal, affordable and accessible!
“We will never allow abortion to be criminalized again.. No elected official has the right to make a choice for us. Resist. Insist. Persist. Elect Pro Choice candidates.”
New York City’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, said, “The bans are about control. The people pushing the bans are chipping away at our rights…We cannot be silent. Women are more than half the population. We will tell [these politicians] ‘Women brought you into this world and women can take you out [pause] of office. We will march, organize, donate and vote.”
She was soon joined by Mayor Bill DiBlasio who said, “New York respects women. We are not going back. This is a fight for our lives. We know women will die because of these laws. We know the American people will support freedom of women. The rights of women matter most.”
Eve Ensler playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, best known for her play “The Vagina Monologues,” shared her own experience getting an abortion. “That abortion was the smartest thing I have done…. Tell that predator-in-chief and those misogynists, ‘Get your invasive, violent hands off our bodies. Our vaginas, uterus, minds are out of the bottle and we ain’t going fucking back. My body, my choice. Are you up for the fight?”
“We are here because we are outraged,” said Andrea Miller, president and CEO of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). “These anti-abortion extremists tell women they can’t be trusted to make our own decisions. They don’t believe we should have the right to control our bodies, our families, our futures. That we are not able to choose our destiny. We say no. The decision whether, when, with whom to have children belongs to us, not politicians.
“New York State passed the Reproductive Health Act. We knew what was coming, coming for our rights. We aren’t just seeing things go back. We are partnering with people moving forward. New York is not done if reproductive rights are not accessible, affordable.”
The NIRH is partnering with New York City on the first Abortion Action Campaign Fund – seeking $250,000 in the city’s budget to fund abortion care for those who cannot afford it. Call the City Council to show support.
“We know our health, our lives, our futures depends on stopping the bans. Make sure abortion is safe, legal, accessible, affordable.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged support for the city to pass the funding. “To say we’re livid is an understatement… [The impact of these fetal personhood bills means] that a woman who suffers a miscarriage could be in the middle of a criminal investigation. Before Roe, women died, now abortion is one of the safest medical procedures that can be performed.
“A frigging tough fight is ahead but we will never back down,” she declared, prompting chants of “Won’t go back. Won’t go back.”
Clara Williams, a Planned Parenthood patient, related how difficult, how complicated and how personal the decision to seek an abortion is. At the time of her abortion, she was very young, her partner had left her, she did not feel she could properly care for a child.
“That is a decision no one can make for you, least of all a politician,” she said. “The rash of bans sweeping the nation, to force a showdown with the Supreme Court, make abortion inaccessible to communities of color, people of low income. Banning doesn’t end abortion, just marginalizes it.
“Abortion is nobody’s business. Whatever the reason, it is not undertaken flippantly. But what kind of life is it if we aren’t the authority, don’t have the right, to control our own destiny?”
“Abortion is necessary health care, and health care is a human right. Punishing those who provide health care, the doctors, is inhumane and cruel.”
Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We won’t let them turn the 21st century into Handmaid’s Tale. It is ironic that those who would ban abortion claim to care about life, but Georgia has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate. If they cared about life, they would be expanding health care, not making it a crime.
“I am fortunate to live in New York. New York has stepped up to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which codifies Roe, protects New York from criminals led by the philanderer-in-chief and his sanctimonious minions. He may have stacked the court, but we won’t let them turn back the clock.”
The ACLU is mounting legal challenges in Georgia and Alabama.
“We will tell the philanderer in chief, ‘We’ll see you in court.’”
The vast majority – almost three out of four Americans – support a woman’s right to choose and preserving Roe, and they vote.
“We know New York supports women’s right to control their own bodies. We rallied to make New York a sanctuary city against the Trump crusade against immigrants. We must also be a sanctuary for women. Thanks to the effort of the ACLU and others, abortion is legal in all 50 states and we have stopped the bans [from being enacted] so far. New York City, New York State must be a sanctuary..”
But even though New York State was one of the first to legislate reproductive rights, before the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, the laws were still surprisingly repressive, criminalizing abortion after 24 weeks.
Garin Marshall related his experience when he and his wife learned at 30 weeks that the fetus she was carrying, “a baby that was very much wanted”, was not viable. “We were denied care in New York State [because of the 24-week ban].” But they had the means to seek services elsewhere. Nonetheless, their experience helped change the law in New York, passing the Reproductive Health Act.
“Abortion was the right choice for our family. People are deserving of autonomy, dignity, respect,” Marshall said.
But, he argued, this is not just women’s issue. Men have much at stake as well, for the women in their lives they love, and their families.
“Men benefit from access to legal, safe, affordable abortion. Men created this problem, especially white men, who held on to power and used it. Good men who do nothing have allowed this situation…This is our problem, too. The house is on fire, but it is our house.
“Fight for access to abortion throughout pregnancy, with no person left behind.”
Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who has been fighting for abortion rights for 20 years, declared, “We can’t let these men who have no idea what they’re talking about get away with this crap.
“I used to walk around with a necklace with a hangar. We won’t go back, but only if we become a movement. Abortion access saves lives.
Planned Parenthood of NY Chief Medical Officer Ila Dayananda, “This is an attack on all of us. Under these laws, the fact a doctor can receive jail time for providing service is horrific. One in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Health care is a fundamental human right.
“There is no banning abortion, only banning safe, legal abortion. These bans particularly hurt women of color, low income. They should receive nothing less than compassion, expert health care, and to be able to make the decision for themselves. There are many complicated factors in this decision. People deserve to be empowered to make their own decision.
“We won’t go back. Smash the patriarchy.”
[Poster: Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers]
New York Abortion Access Fund’s Maddy Durante urged financial support for those in New York seeking abortion.
“Abortion access is out of reach for many for a long time – both financial and legal access. If private insurance doesn’t cover an abortion, it is a potentially astronomical cost. Often, people can’t use insurance because of privacy and safety, because they fear partner violence.
“Our clients are immigrants, people living in affordable housing, undergoing family separation, parents and caregivers, and increasingly, people traveling to New York. They may have Medicaid but many states don’t allow Medicaid coverage for abortions.”
She said her organization has already provided assistance to 590 people through grass roots fundraising.
“Care has been inaccessible for a long time. A right without true access is merely a privilege. Petition the City Council to fund Abortion NYC.”
[Poster: I wish my uterus shot bullets, so the government wouldn’t regulate it.]
Director of Operations for Black Lives Matter, NYC, Shaavronna Newsome. “People imposing bans are hiding behind Christianity, but this is really about declining birthrate, capitalism, patriarchy. I am grateful to be in New York where I can choose.”
Celia Petty, a founding member of NYC for Abortion Rights, told how she has had three abortions in her life – the first when she was very young and had just broken up with her boyfriend. “This was the 1970s. I wasn’t capable of raising a child. I was afraid I would regret. But I was relieved that I could wait until ready.”
Her second was when she found she was pregnant with a six month old baby (don’t believe you can’t get pregnant if you are nursing). “I was trying to work full time and still care for a new baby. I couldn’t manage.”
The third time was again, despite using birth control, when she got pregnant with a 10-month old baby in the house. “I had to work to make ends meet. An abortion saved my life,” she says as her young granddaughter, clings to her leg as she speaks at the podium.
“A lot of women have abortions out of more desperate situations.”
An active founding member of New York for Abortion Rights, she said, “We seek full reproductive justice, the right to bear children in a safe, healthy environment. We want a grass roots movement to demand reproductive freedom – the right to control our bodies and our lives.”
That prompts the chant: “Without this basic right, women can’t be free. Abortion on demand, without apology.”
The New Yorkers who rallied in front of the US Courthouse in downtown Manhattan, were among tens of thousands of people gathered at more than 500 events in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico on the Stop the Bans Day of Action.
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