By Jennifer Corr
Chants like “My body, my choice” echoed through big cities like Washington, D.C., and Manhattan Saturday as part of the Rally for Abortion Justice, and that same passion made it to what is known as Resistance Corner at the junction of Route 347 and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.
The national Rally for Abortion Justice movement, according to the Women’s March Network, comes after comes after the Supreme Court’s rejection of an emergency request to block the Texas Heartbeat Act.
Coming into effect Sept. 1, the bill bans abortion at the point of the “first detectable heartbeat,” which could occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy — a point that many are just finding out they’re pregnant. At least 13 other states failed to attempt enacting similar bans after being blocked by courts.
“I believe in a women’s right to choose,” said protester Bryan Campbell, who was pushing a stroller occupied by his infant. “I think it’s ridiculous what’s going on in Texas and I’m here to support the women in my life: my partner, my friends, my daughter. This is for their future and for everyone’s future.”
Campbell was one of hundreds of men, women and children who gathered on the busy corner, holding signs in protest of such laws. Some even took to dressing up as characters from the “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a best-selling novel and TV series that depicts a totalitarian society that treats women as property.
Donna Reggio was among those dressed in red robes and white bonnet.
“It’s a dystopian fantasy that’s no longer a fantasy,” she said. “We’re going backward with women’s rights and we’re here to show that we don’t want to go there anymore.”
Before Roe v. Wade — a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that protected a women’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction — only more affluent women had access to safe and legal abortions. However, it is estimated that between the 1950s and ’60s, the number of illegal abortions, either self-induced or done through often dangerous or even deadly procedures, ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million a year.
Rally organizer Shoshana Hershkowitz, of Long Island Social Justice Action Network and Suffolk Progressives, was on Resistance Corner Saturday to make sure her daughter did not grow up with fewer rights than she was able to enjoy throughout her lifetime.
“Our own congressman [Lee Zeldin (R-NY1)] tried to overturn Roe in the past year,” she said. “We can’t just think of this as a somewhere-else situation. It was happening right here.”
That’s why the LISJAN and Suffolk Progressives joined with grassroot organizations like Long Island Progressive Coalition, Long Island Activists, New HOUR for Women & Children – LI, Show Up Long Island, NY02 Indivisible, Planned Parenthood, among others, to prevent impediments in a woman’s reproductive rights from happening anywhere — including here in New York.
“We just put out the word to the different Facebook groups and [other various groups] who are invested in keeping our rights and getting women in office,” said Kat Lahey of Long Island Rising, adding that several speakers including Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were also in attendance. “You can see that there’s a high demand to keep women’s reproductive rights.”
But not all were in support of the movement. Along with some disapproving remarks made by drivers who were passing by, one woman stood on the other side of the highway holding a sign, with photos of babies, that read “Please love me, I love you.”
The woman would not disclose her name, however she did share that she goes to her local Planned Parenthood every Saturday morning to pray. She said she was especially upset about New York State’s allowance of late-term abortions.
Yet the 2019 law, passed on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, only allows late-term abortions when the mother’s health is in danger.
When asked about the counterprotester, Hershkowitz said that she was more than welcome to cross the road and speak with herself and other organizers. “But I’m not changing my mind,” she said.
It was not the first time that groups like New HOUR and LISJAN gathered on the corner, as they also showed up for issues ranging from gun safety to the Trump-era ban on refugees from majority-Muslim countries.
“Our community has come quite accustomed to gathering in this space and standing up for what we believe in,” Hershkowitz said. “So really, it’s like we almost have muscle memory because of having to gather here for so many years.”