Some 350 women, men and children gathered for the national Women’s March for Abortion Justice on a sunny Saturday in Academy Green Park to hoist pro-Roe slogans, listen to speeches and chant. Galvanized by Texas’s six-week abortion ban and the Supreme Court’s refusal to overturn it, the 2021 Women’s March gathered hundreds of thousands in Washington and in cities and towns across the country, including New Paltz and Woodstock.
They had a message for Texas and other states threatening to overturn the right to abortion codified almost 50 years ago in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: We want abortion justice — women’s sovereignty over their own bodies and equal access to abortion services for all. They were emphatic that abortion is fundamental health care and a human right.
Organized by Hudson Valley Strong-Indivisible, Planned Parenthood, U-Act and Citizen Action, the rally MC was Steve Spicer, vice president of the Kingston School Board. Spicer introduced a two-hour parade of politicians and community leaders. Between speeches, he led the enthusiastic crowd in fist-pumping and chants like “Her choice, her opinion. Time to stop the war on women” and “Your arguments are pretty shoddy, get your hands off my body.”
With no exceptions for rape or incest, Texas bans surgical abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and medicinal abortions after seven weeks, a time when many women don’t know they are expecting. It allows anyone who is opposed to abortion — regardless of where they live or whether they know the patient — to sue a provider or anyone who helps end a pregnancy. They stand to win $10,000. County Executive Pat Ryan described paying people to inform on each other as “Orwellian.”
To ensure New Yorkers’ abortion rights, the state ensured a right to abortion up to 24 weeks when it passed the Reproductive Health Act in 2019. Later-term abortions are allowed if the health of the mother or baby are at risk. While Roe legalized abortion nationwide, when Donald Trump was elected President, state legislators worried that Republicans would try to ban choice.
Former State Senator Jen Metzger pointed out that 90 laws limiting access to abortion have been passed by various states in the past year alone. The Supreme Court will take up a Mississippi measure outlawing most abortions after 15 weeks; many fear that the court’s conservative majority will overturn Roe.
Some at Saturday’s rally remember the pre-Roe days when abortion was illegal and dangerous. Several signs displayed coat hangers, recalling a time when women resorted to them in attempts to end their pregnancies. Hurley resident Megan Carey, 76, marched for abortion rights back then and never dreamed she’d be fighting the same fight 50 years later. “It’s a horrifying thought to go back to the days before abortion was safe and legal.” She wants to see Congress pass legislation making abortion rights the law of the land.
Thirty-year-old Ally Mazzella came to the rally with her two young daughters, Lilly who is five and one-year-old Madi and her mother Chris Lollo. They all wore pink t-shirts with a quote from late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “Fight for the things you care about.” Lollo said she came out to raise awareness. “So much of what we fought for is in danger.”
National polls show that six in ten Americans support abortion choice in all or most circumstances, making this a divisive partisan and ideological issue that can sway elections. Senator Michelle Hinchey pointed out that she won her seat against an anti-abortion rival by only two percent.
Comptroller March Gallagher, Dutchess County legislator Brennan Kearney, Red Hook mayor Karen Smythe and Kingston Common Council candidate Laura Nordstrom shared their anger and their personal stories. Nordstrom brought her two young sons and told the rally about an unwanted pregnancy she terminated that would have derailed her young life.
Congressman Antonio Delgado, who flew in from Washington, called reproductive rights a critical issue in a country where one in four women have had an abortion in their lifetimes, not just for women but for men and families. “Every single individual has a responsibility to care deeply about this singular issue.” Delgado said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re seeing a parallel attempt to roll back voting rights. “They’re part of the same plan. It’s called rolling back the clock,” an attempt to reverse the progress that’s been made towards a more equitable society.
The rally ended with a 12-minute march through Uptown Kingston. Megan Carey said fighting this fight can be exhausting, but the rally was valuable to buoy up abortion advocates’ spirits. The same slogan from the sixties still applies, she said, “we want abortion safe, legal and rare.”