About 200 people gathered in front of the Suffolk County Courthouse in Riverhead Saturday afternoon in support of a woman’s right to chose whether to carry through with a pregnancy, in the wake of the leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe Vs. Wade decision.
The rally was one of numerous rallies throughout the nation Saturday dubbed “Bans Off Our Bodies,” organized by Planned Parenthood.
The refrain from all speakers was loud and clear: women want the right to decide what’s right for themselves in terms of bearing a child, and that right must be protected through everyday action, not just at critical moments in history.
Local Nurse-Midfwife Lara Nadosy said that abortion is “essential preventive health care,” and a deeply personal medical decision, adding that “banning abortion only bans safe abortions.”
She said she was concerned in particular by moves afoot to restrict women’s access to health care in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, in which a growing embryo attaches to the inside of a woman’s fallopian tube instead of her uterus, which would make it impossible for that embryo to survive.
“It would lead to loss of a fallopian tube, internal bleeding, shock and death” for the mother, said Ms. Nadosy. “It would never be a viable pregnancy.
She added that the states in the U.S. that have the most restrictive abortion laws also have the greatest rates of maternal and infant deaths.
“Pro-life is not about preserving life,” she said.
Suffolk County Legislators Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn, who are both running for the First Congressional District seat now held by pro-life Congressman Lee Zeldin (who is running for Governor of New York), both also spoke up.
“We won’t go back,” Ms. Fleming led the crowd in a chear.
“Twenty-six states are poised to ban abortion right away, leaving 36 million people without care,” said Ms. Fleming. “As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I am horrified. This is not a partisan issue. Seventy-five percent of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independent thinkers, believe a woman should have the right to make her own decisions, along with her doctors.”
“We cannot rely on this Supreme Court to protect the rights of 75 percent of Americans,” she added. “In Congress, it’s important that we codify Roe Vs. Wade.”
Republicans in the United States Senate blocked that effort earlier this week.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m mad. I’m fired up. You have to be fired up. We’re in a fight for the lives of our daughters. We cannot go back,” said Legislator Hahn.
Southold Town Trustee Liz Gillooly said she was also mad — at Congressman Lee Zeldin, who has said that if he was elected governor he would appoint a pro-life health commissioner, at State Senator Anthony Palumbo, who represents the East End in Albany and recently made comments stating that he was opposed to abortion even in cases where it could be dangerous for the mother, and at U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for staging the block of the Senate’s action.
“We are not done. We are never done. Preserving our freedom is a habit. We need to stay engaged every day,” said Kathryn Casey Quigley, who helped organize this rally.
She then read a letter from Tijuana Fulford, the Executive Director of The Butterfly Project, which works to empower local girls.
“We struggle to cope, and heal from generational trauma,” she wrote. “As a god-fearing woman, this is not about asking for a seat at the table. You are the table. We do not need allies. We need champions. This will rob us of 100 years of progress.”
Kate Mueth, founder of the dance troupe The Neo-Political Cowgirls, agreed.
“We believe we are all welcome at the table — a table owned by no one, to have resilient conversations,” she said. “We get to write the story of our lives. Change will not come only by rearing up in waves every time we have to fight tyranny. we have to play the long game, plant seeds of change, by voting every time and getting others to the polls.
Jan Singer, who serves on the Executive Committee of the Smithtown Democratic Committee and has been involved with fighting for women’s rights for decades, closed the formal remarks before the crowd marched downtown, on the sidewalks.
She said she remembered having to lie and say she was married in order to get access to birth control in the 1960s, and then in the early 1970s, while working on a hotline for women in distress in Ithaca, having to refer them to a clinic in Syracuse, which was the closest place they could get access to an abortion. She said that she herself had gotten very sick during a pregnancy she had intended to have, and her doctor had told her, for the sake of her life, that she would need an abortion.
“I’ve been fighting this battle since 1969,” she said. “We’ve been fighting and fighting and fighting. You need to vote for people who support abortion protection and birth control. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. We won’t go back.”