Queens rallies for reproductive rights

Oct 4, 2021
In The News

Nearly 50 Queens residents across generations and genders gathered on the steps of Borough Hall Saturday to join the millions across the country rallying in support of reproductive rights.

Organizers said the borough’s solidarity with those fighting in states like Texas with restrictive abortion laws was essential, both because of the need for proactive engagement to prevent additional limitations and because legal access does not always mean equitable access.

“Things that matter anywhere has a ripple effect, especially in Queens,” said Melissa Bair, who co-organized the Queens Rally for Reproductive Rights. “It’s not like things are even perfect here in New York, it’s not like access is something fully just realized because we have a law saying it’s legal; there’s always room for improvements, especially when you see things taking this turn.”

“If we don't, what does that say about us?” she added.

Some attendees were old enough to have fought for abortion rights the last time the issue came to head on a national stage. Others, like fourteen-year-old friends Abigail K. and Amelia M., were taking to the pavement to fight for their futures, they said.

Equipped with hand-drawn signs, they decided to attend the rally to raise their voices for the teens their age who can no longer make the choice for themselves, and those who risk being fined or dying while fighting for bodily autonomy.

“If I was in a scenario like this or something happened to me I’d want to know I always have safe and legal options and I can't imagine people who don’t — even young people like me,” Abigail said. ”I worry.”

“Having the freedom of being able to choose what you want to do with your body… is just the most important thing,” Amelia added. “I just want to come out and show that I'm in support of those women and their choices.”

Supporters say reproductive justice can only be fully realized when all gender identities, races and classes have access to safe, legal and affordable abortions.

“Rich women get abortions, poor women die,” said Paula Avila-Guillen, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center. “This is about privilege… these laws are about control, about controlling our bodies because they know if we own our bodies, our destiny, then we are going to fly and take the oppressive system they want to put us [in] down.”

Advocates and lawmakers, including U.S. Reps. Grace Meng and Carolyn Maloney, State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Asssemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas encouraged attendees to take to the offense by using their voice and participating in local elections.

Protections under Roe v Wade were codified in New York State law in 2019 with the enactment of the Reproductive Health Act, and the Women's Health Protection Act of 2021 — which would establish similar protections — passed in the House of Representatives last month.

Though the work on the national stage is necessary, the fight must also continue at home, said Planned Parenthood business associate Carla Alvarez.

“We New Yorkers have great privilege and responsibility… but there is still work to do,” Alvarez said. “What would it look like to fund abortion state access?”

“We have a responsibility to continue to build policies and local protections and serve as a model for other states,” she added. “We need to look within our communities and identify what are the local sexual and reproductive justice issues we are facing right here.”