Demonstration for Reproductive Justice Held at St Patrick’s Cathedral

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The “Remember Rosie Jimenez: National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice” rally, in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Photo by: Claire Haroche

Dozens of protesters gathered recently in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral for a rally in support of abortion and reproductive rights.

Organized by Radical Women, a grassroots feminist group, the afternoon demonstration, “Remember Rosie Jimenez: National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice,” featured pro-choice guest speakers and activists. The event, held on October 3, commemorated the anniversary of the death of Rosie Jimenez, a woman who died from a back-alley abortion in Texas 43 years ago, on Oct. 3, 1977. Her death came a year after the Hyde Amendment passed nationwide, a law that bans the use of federal funding for abortions. Now with the recent passing of the strict abortion law in Texas, reproductive rights advocates in New York City want the Hyde Amendment repealed, Roe v. Wade expanded and access to abortion unrestricted.

“The Hyde Amendment is terrifying and the fact that we are still voting to keep it in place, year after year, is terrifying,” said Olivia Cordingley, an activist at the rally and coordinator of the Reproductive Justice Group at the Columbia School of Social Work, where the organization holds events and discussions on reproductive justice.

Although abortion is legal in all 50 states since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, the Hyde Amendment still bans Medicaid and Medicare to cover abortion services. But some states like New York have decided to fund abortion services for its residents.

“The idea of a government using health care benefits to coerce people’s choices is improper. Abortion is the only health care explicitly prohibited under Medicaid,” said Cynthia Soohoo, a law professor at City University of New York. “Hijacking the benefits and health care of poor people because you are against abortion is unfair.”

 

The “Remember Rosie Jimenez: National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice” rally, in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Photo by: Claire Haroche

According to the New York State Department of Health’s latest data from 2018, 46,796 abortions were performed in New York City that year. A 2019 state law, the Reproductive Health Act, put in place in case Roe v. Wade gets overturned, legalizes all abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. And for cases where a women’s health is at risk, or the fetus isn’t viable, an abortion is still legal after 24 weeks. In the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, Soohoo predicts an influx of residents from more conservative neighboring states will come to New York to get an abortion.

Cordingley said she hopes the rally can help get rid of the stigma around abortion and sparks some interest in reproductive justice among the public. Sharing stories and testifying is a great way to open the discussion, she said. “Religious beliefs are so ingrained in politics, even though we’re supposed to be a secular government. It has become the status quo.” said Cordingley, adding that abortion restrictions are also about taking power away from women.

“We’re creating the next generation; we’re creating the future. We can also choose not to. Why would anyone want to control another person’s body? It is all about power,” said Cordingley, who is also concerned about the violence and hate she sees at some of the counter protests.

There are 50 Planned Parenthood clinics in New York, including one in Manhattan, at the Manhattan Health Center on Bleecker Street. In February, Attorney General Letitia James took a stand against anti-abortion movements and filed a lawsuit against two protesters who had been harassing women entering the center.

“New York needs to be a leader when it comes to protecting abortion justice,” said Katharine Bodde, assistant policy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union who specializes in reproductive rights, health and justice. “Our leaders need to be vocal about their support. What is happening across the country is not OK.”

 

The “Remember Rosie Jimenez: National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice” rally, in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Photo by: Claire Haroche

For the past 10 years, conservative states have adopted laws increasingly hostile to abortion rights. The Guttmacher Institute, an American research organization working on sexual and reproductive health and rights, listed 483 new abortion restrictions nationwide between January 2011 and July 2019, nearly a 40% increase in abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade.

Bodde said she is well aware that abortion is under threat on several levels and understands women who are afraid and concerned regarding their reproductive rights. “Abortion is not a dirty word. We have to change society and that means battling stigma and shame by actually naming it and talking about it,” she said.

Nga Bui, an organizer of the rally and a social worker, decided to have the protest in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral. “We chose the Catholic Church because they have played a major role, not just in establishing patriarchy worldwide, but in being anti-abortion and anti-body autonomy,” she said, adding that she hopes all women, including Christian women, will join the conversation. “Maybe they can be agents within their church. They can push and help in whatever way they can,” she said.

Emily Woo Yamasaki, another organizer with Radical Women, summed up the purpose of the rally. “Our fight is the fight of all of society because as long as women are oppressed, the rest of society cannot be free.