A deluge of protesters hit the streets in outrage last Friday, June 24 after learning that five members of the Supreme Court had ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, a pivotal court case that established a woman’s right to an abortion 50 years ago. Advocates and electeds alike joined in demonstrations, some sharing their personal experiences.
In a conference at City Hall, Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, who runs Health and Human Services, said that she is proud to be a mom of two daughters but when she was younger she made the decision to get a safe, legal abortion.
“When I was 18 years old, I was not ready to be a mom. So if I didn’t have access to a safe, affordable abortion, I would not be here with you all today,” said Williams-Isom. “I wouldn’t have the life that I wanted to have. I wouldn’t be able to be the mother that I want to be. At 18, I wasn’t financially ready, socially ready, emotionally ready. So, today is so important for all of those people throughout this country that do not and are not as safe as they need to be.”
Williams-Isom spoke about how her 91-year-old mother in Trinidad was deeply confused at the state of affairs in the U.S. and how they could deny women’s access to safe care.
Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer added while at the conference that the real fight is about social issues that impact a woman’s ability to be economically stable, to continue her education, and to plan for her future.
“I know this firsthand. I had an abortion. It was the right decision for me and my husband. And so today, I share your anger. I share your disappointment. I share your frustration, and I share your outrage,” said Torres-Springer.
According to Planned Parenthood, the original case was filed by Jane Roe, an unmarried and pregnant Texas woman who wanted to end her pregnancy. The Texas law at the time made it a crime to perform an abortion unless a woman’s life was at stake, but the Supreme Court sided with her and on January 22, 1973, recognized for the first time “the constitutional right to privacy ‘is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.’” It set the legal precedent for cases to come, including cases where a married couple given birth control was criminalized.
In 1965, said Planned Parenthood, “Abortion was so unsafe that 17% of all deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth were because of illegal abortions.”
Immediately following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the current Dobbs v. Jackson case that overturned Roe, Gov. Kathy Hochul and a slew of entities started donating funds and building public education campaigns about where to get safe, legal, and accessible abortions, like in New York State.
“We feared this dark day—but New York did not hesitate to prepare for it,” said Hochul in a statement. “The Supreme Court has dealt a crushing blow to all who value the ability to make decisions about their own bodies. Let me be clear: the Supreme Court has failed us, but New York State will not. Our Abortion Access Always campaign builds on efforts to ensure that everyone knows that abortions remain safe, legal, and accessible here. As long as I am governor, this state will protect you.”
When the overturn ruling was leaked last month, Hochul took steps to protect and strengthen reproductive rights and abortion access across the state. A $25 million dollar Abortion Provider Support Fund was created and a six-bill package was passed for those who need help with payment or travel costs and to address a variety of legal concerns that may crop up in the future.
Even giant companies, such as Microsoft and Disney, are putting in money for employees forced to travel across red state lines to get an abortion, reported CNN.
Legal abortion has transformed one in four women’s lives in the United States, reduced Black maternal mortality by 40%, and created economic opportunities for women over the last half century, said
Torres-Springer. Planned Parenthood concurred that body autonomy and access to care has enabled women to pursue educational and employment opportunities that were “often unthinkable prior to Roe,” which was noted by the Supreme Court in 1992.
Since the 1970s, the ruling for Roe v. Wade has been under attack with restrictions to the law adding limits on low-income women and young women, said Planned Parenthood.
President, CEO, and founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center Merle Hoffman is an internationally known leader in the struggle for women’s rights. Choices is a women’s center that provides abortion services, birth control, gynecology, pre-natal care, behavioral health counseling, LGBTQ programs and extensive educational outreach to schools, prisons and women’s organizations. She founded her clinics in the city two years before Roe v. Wade in 1971. As a women’s and reproductive rights activist, her work spans 50 years and continues today.
Hoffman said that the country is dangerously moving towards a “theocracy” that is determined to undue fundamental rights like abortion or gay marriage as Judge Clarence Thomas alluded to. Her clinics will continue to see patients from other states. She said many women will be looking for places to stay or need access to funding. When she began her clinic in 1971 she was seeing patients from New Jersey, but nowadays people come as far as Texas, said Hoffman.
“We had a patient who came from Texas a couple of weeks ago and she thought she was 11 weeks pregnant and she had her ticket for Friday. One night, roundtrip. She had no money, didn’t bring food. And no place to stay. She didn’t know nobody in New York,” said Hoffman. “Scared, pregnant, with very little resources.”
Hoffman said that the patient from Texas ended up being 15 weeks after she did an ultrasound. She told the patient that she would have to stay for a two-day procedure. “A counselor sits her down and tells her that, ‘you know, you’re going to have to stay overnight.’ And she panics. She panics,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman said in this instance the center reached out to the Brigid Alliance, a referral-based service that provides travel, food, and other logistical support for people seeking abortions. The Brigid Alliance was able to arrange food, lodgings, and move the woman’s ticket a day so that she could get the procedure done.
Men and LGBTQ individuals also joined in the protests and demonstrations citywide, and nationwide, to support women who have felt abandoned by the country.
Mayor Eric Adams revealed at the City Hall conference that when he was 15 years old, his then girlfriend decided to get an abortion.
“And she made the decision that was smart for both of us. She made the right call because she was empowered. She was in control,” said Adams. “And some years later when Jordan’s mom was pregnant, she made the determination she wanted to have her son. She made the determination because she was empowered to make that determination. Don’t kid ourselves. This is the erosion and destruction of the ability of women to have and be empowered.”
Adams said that this is not only a “direct attack at women” but a dismantling of American rights by the far-right. He cautioned New Yorkers and Americans to “be very afraid.”
“When it comes to our bodies, we have no rights, but when it comes to their guns, they have every right. This is not wise jurisprudence or reasonable argument. This is a power grab,” said Adams.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w