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Queens rallies for safe, legal abortion

Local elected officials, gender justice groups, and other community advocates followed the lead of other protesters across the country when they gathered at the steps of Queens Borough Hall to fight for abortion rights.

Outrage sparked nationwide in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade, which set the precedent to protect a woman’s right to an abortion in the ‘70s.

A Forest Hills resident holds up a sign with a photo of his grandmother, who died as a result of an unsafe abortion.

Merle Hoffman, who founded Choices Women’s Medical Center before Roe v. Wade said that as a result, women’s rights in the United States are in a “state of emergency.”

Hoffman founded Choices Women’s Medical Center in 1971 as one of the country’s first abortion centers.

She said that over the years, she’s been invaded, harassed and received death threats for performing abortions — and that the one thing that kept her going was the women and patients she was able to assist.

“I was only 25 years old, and one day abortion was illegal, a sin, and a crime. The next day, women were lining up to have them in New York,” Hoffman said.

“That first patient, Helen, was my epiphany that led me to this struggle and to understand that this is what I had to spend my life doing,” she continued. “I had my abortion when I was 32 years old — I was married, I had all the support I needed. I just didn’t want to be a mother at that time, and that’s enough. My decision is enough.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who organized the rally, stood in solidarity with women fighting for their rights. He echoed Hoffman’s sentiment that the U.S. cannot go into a post-Roe society.

“I will never truly know what it means or how painful it is to seek or need an abortion. But as a Black man whose ancestors were brought here in chains and deemed three fifths of a person, I want you all to know I stand with you today as an ally,” Richards said. “Abortion is healthcare and a fundamental human right. Queens will not stay silent as Roe is gutted by five right wing justices, in black robes, as if they were the Grim Reaper trying to destroy one of our country’s most sacred rights.”

He emphasized that overturning Roe v. Wade would simply be a ban on safe abortions, and that women would continue to seek them in other ways — many of which are unsafe.

Councilwoman Lynn Schulman shared the story of how in the 1800s, her great grandmother died trying to give herself an abortion.

“We’re going back to the 1800s. We cannot let that happen,” Schulman said. “I’ve gotten messages from people in this district who said they don’t want their taxpayer money used for abortion. They don’t believe in reproductive rights; it is horrible. We have to make sure that we go out and fight, that we go out and vote and organize because our lives depend on it.”

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks to the crowd

She added how proud she is to be a woman on the female majority-led City Council with the first African American woman to be speaker.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams reiterated that Queens will always support the right to safely access abortion and reproductive healthcare.

“No Supreme Court decision made by a majority of white men who will never understand the pain or heartbreak that goes into making the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy will ever change that fundamental right,” Adams said.

“Several states have already passed trigger laws that would outlaw abortion if Roe were overturned,” Adams continued. “Those who cannot afford to get access out of state, those who cannot have access to reproductive care in state, poor and low income Americans will be left out, but here in New York we will do what we can to support people coming from outside our state to seek care.”

Members of local gender justice groups South Queens Women’s March and Jahajee Sisters encouraged New Yorkers to continue to fight for safe abortion and support clinics that offer the service.

Joan Hirsch of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights took donations from attendees that would go to funds for safe abortions.

“We’ve got to show up and join these actions, put our bodies out there, and let this whole nation know that we are not taking this lightly,” Tannuja Rozario, a founding member of South Queens Women’s March, said. “Our liberation as a whole is tied to the liberation from reproductive injustice. If you care about the right to vote, environmental justice, or food justice, all these issues are linked. Reproductive justice should be important to you.”

“We must do everything as a borough, as a city, and as a people to protect decision making power for all,” Felicia Singh, of the Jahajee Sisters, said. “This means taking to the streets and showing up in mass. This means supporting abortion funds from our local independent clincics that will bear the brunt of this work. This means establishing an abortion access fund in New York State, creating a state public fund for abortion care… and a public option for healthcare for all people regardless of immigration status.”

Joan Hirsch, an advocate from Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, took donations from attendees that would go to funds for safe abortions. The organization is participating in the national week of action for abortion rights, which takes place from May 8-14.

“You cannot capitulate to this. We have to fight this now and get in the streets. Only the people can stop this,” Hirsch said. “Forced motherhood is female slavery. We are fighting for abortion on demand and without apology.”

SCOTUS may overturn Roe v. Wade

Concern mounts in Washington D.C. after a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion seeks to potentially overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Should the decision be overturned 26 different states are likely to restrict abortion, impacting the individual rights of women across the nation.

According to reports from The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization based in New York, as of last year, there are 22 states that already have anti-abortion laws that would kick in as soon as the decision is made.

These include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

A woman’s rights should not fall on the decision of the judicial system. It is unjust that the legal system would look to overturn a landmark case, which helped set the precedent against criminal abortion laws and established that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

The result of this could mean that pregnant women will be forced to travel long distances to obtain services in states where the procedure will still be legal. And what will become of Planned Parenthood and other such organizations dedicated to a woman’s right to choose?

The fact that the opinion was leaked to the public marks the first time in modern history that the courts have disclosed an opinion while the case is still pending.

While this could be a good sign that the courts will likely reverse its final decision, it has certainly sparked a nationwide debate on the legality of abortion.

“Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which American hold sharply conflicting views,” Justice Alito says in the draft dated February 2022.

“Some believe fervently that a human person comes into being at conception and that abortion ends an innocent life. Others feel just as strongly that any regulation of abortion invades a woman’s right to control her own body and prevents women from achieving full equality. Still others in a third group think that abortion should be allowed under some but not all circumstances and those with this group hold a variety of views about the particular restrictions that should be imposed.”

The decision goes on to state that at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973, “30 states still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision about a third of the states had liberated their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process.”

Despite the large conservative contingent expressing their views on a woman’s right to choose, it remains a fact that it is still their body and life to account for.

If a woman is not mentally or financially prepared to take care of a child, how can the state enforce its will and force them into parenthood?
New York will certainly not bend to these new regulations, but other states already have plans preparred should the case be overturned.

Why are so many people concerned with conception and birth when it’s hardly their decisions to make?

The opinion of men should be completely removed from the equation as the right to life is not one that is theirs to give nor should it be one that they should govern over.

Until the day that the courts realize that is the solely the decision of the birth-giver, whether or not they choose to have an abortion, the fight for gender equality must continue.

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