MANHATTAN – Upper East Side resident Amy Schwartz was “devastated.” Briana Vanegas, who is originally from Texas and now lives in New York City, was “shocked” by the decision. The women were among more than 300 people gathered Saturday evening at a protest in Carl Schurz Park— the anger and fear they spoke about were palpable in the crowd.
“Just rage,” Ariel M. ruefully laughed as she described hearing the news of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. She now worries how she will explain to her 6-year-old daughter that she will grow up with less fundamental rights and bodily autonomy than her mother did.
So too was a determination to fight the ruling. Protestors didn’t seem bothered by the 90-degree heat, holding aloft signs that read, “Someone you love has had an abortion;” “Keep your laws off my body;” and “This is the war on women.”
Many of the protesters, as well as some of the politicians and activists who spoke at the rally, feared that the overturning of Roe was the first of many reversals of hard-earned rights to come.
“It’s a slippery slope,” said protester Ali Bohrer. “What comes next?” She and others at the rally had read Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case— decided on Friday, overturning Roe v. Wade— that the court should revisit Supreme Court precedents legalizing gay marriage, the right to use contraception, and the decriminalization of consensual gay sex.
At Saturday’s rally— organized by New York State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright— Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and other local officials addressed the crowd, as did several community activists who shared personal stories of their own abortions, or their loved ones’ experiences.
Alex Bores, Democratic District Leader for Manhattan’s East Side and a New York State Assembly candidate, told the crowd that the state “needs to be ready” for patients from other states that come here seeking abortions.
Bores also talked about the experience of his great-grandmother, who at 34 and with three children, died from complications of an illegal abortion.
She was “too afraid of the law to go to the hospital.” His family is still living with the pain her death caused, he said.
Bores scoffed at the six conservative Supreme Court justices who voted for the 6-3 ruling, as well as their supporters for calling themselves pro-life, saying, “That’s a lie. This decision will lead to deaths.”
Peggy Price, a member of Community Board 8, called the Friday decision “historic,” and said that it was the first time that “a constitutionally protected right was erased.”
She stressed, as other did, the importance of electing Democrats to office, and of supporting pro-choice candidates across the country.
Seawright’s staff was registering voters in a tent set up next to the speakers. Those already registered were encouraged to take registration cards to friends and family.
“It’s D-Day in America,” Price concluded. “And we are under attack.”
Levine referred to the ruling as an “assault on the bodily autonomy of women,” and said the Supreme Court would “stop at nothing” to “eliminate our rights.”
He called on the Senate to end the filibuster and vote to expand the court, saying “the stakes on every single election have been raised.”
Many in the crowd expected the gutting of the landmark Roe decision, especially after a draft of the Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked in early May, but Friday’s news still hurt.
Tina W., who asked that only her last initial be used, “knew it was coming,” but had a “small hope it would be a more buffered decision.”
She also expressed gratitude for being a New York resident, and pride in how state elected officials have responded to the ruling, but also feels “distraught for the millions of American women, women of color, women in dire situations, forced into the sheer cruelty” of the reality of a post-Roe nation.
“The United States, in effect, has already ceased to be a democracy,” Tina said. “People don’t understand their rights are being dismantled.”
With nine states having banned abortion since Friday’s ruling, with more expected to follow, Upper East Siders said they felt betrayed by the Supreme Court.
Seawright told the crowd “we must” organize on college campuses, and mobilize women in law schools to prepare the next generation to fight to win back the rights lost this week.
The Assembly Member concluded with a rallying cry, “We will persevere and we will persist!”