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NYC protest in defense of abortion rights

Tempest report and video from September 12, 2021 Rally in defense of abortion rights.

On September 12, about 200 abortion rights activists gathered at Union Square in New York City. This was one of many protests happening this month around the country against the Supreme Court’s decision not to block Texas’s recently passed (and medically inaccurate) “Texas Heartbeat Act,” which is a de-facto ban on abortion. The protest was organized by Left Voice in partnership with a number of other left-wing groups, including NYC for Abortion Rights, DSA Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus, and the Tempest Collective.

The Texas law not only bans nearly all abortions after six weeks—before most people even know they are pregnant; it also allows private individuals to sue anyone who assists someone in accessing an abortion, effectively empowering anti-abortion vigilantes. As pro-choice activists brace for further challenges to Roe v. Wade, the now 6-3 conservative Supreme Court’s decision compounds more than 90 abortion restrictions and bans that have passed state legislatures this year alone. While these laws are primarily being driven by members of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party has been mostly absent in pushing back against this assault on reproductive rights and gender justice.

This puts the U.S. far behind several recent international advancements for abortion rights. 2021 began with such promise as Argentina, the birth country of Pope Francis, legalized abortion for the first 14 weeks of gestation, following the 2018 referendum in Ireland (a majority Catholic country), where two thirds of voters overturned a ban on abortion. On September 7, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling declaring that abortion is no longer a crime in the country. Before this, abortion had been legal in Mexico City since 2007, but criminalized throughout most of the country. These victories were not merely won in the courts, but through mass street protests and mobilizations to demand abortion rights. It will take no less to defend them in the U.S., too.

Pro-choice organizations, including the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood, and over 90 other groups have called for national mobilizations to defend Reproductive Rights on October 2 in conjunction with the start of the Supreme Court’s new term that begins on October 4.

We have put together a compilation of five speeches from the September 12 protest in defense of abortion rights at Union Square in New York City.

Featured Image Credit: Gigi Schweitzerr. Modified by Tempest.

Haley Pessin Some of the big women’s rights organizations, Planned Parenthood, [National Organization for Women], and some of the other NGOs have called a mass protest to defend abortion rights on October 2. And you know what? I’d say it’s about fucking time.

For way too long, the dominant strategy of these groups has not been to mobilize their base for a full-throated defense of abortion, but to fight through the courts, through lobbying, through fundraising, through calling your senator, and worst of all, by downplaying the centrality of abortion rights to women’s and gender liberation. They don’t even say the word abortion sometimes.

But guess what? We all know that none of that has been enough to stop the offensive of the Right against our rights. The only way we’re going to stop the rollback is by telling that archaic, unaccountable slavery-era institution, the Supreme Court, that we are not going to roll over and hand our rights and futures away, we are going to fight back!

The latest law in Texas is not just an abortion ban. It criminalizes everyone down to the cab driver who might aid and abet a pregnant person who dares to decide what to do with their own body. This reveals what we already know: the Right wants to control the bodies of women and people who can become pregnant by pushing us back to the days before Roe v. Wade. In fact, we know these efforts will never actually eliminate abortions—they will make them accessible only to the rich and white.

Poor and working-class people, especially people of color, will be made to have children they do not want or cannot afford to have, while putting their lives at risk. This gives lie to the idea that the Right has the moral high ground because they care so damn much about life. Guess what, they don’t care if women and trans people die.

We need access to safe, legal abortion. The Democrats are also at fault here because they’ve treated abortion for years now as if it’s a single-issue fight that we can sidestep when it’s convenient for winning elections in red states.

This isn’t a single-issue protest. This is about gender and economic justice. Abortions cost as much as $300 to $1,500, and that’s just in the first trimester. This is unacceptable at a time when people in the U.S. can’t afford an emergency $400 expense and after a pandemic that left many people unable to even afford rent. We have an eviction crisis—we shouldn’t have a health care crisis as well.

This is about racial justice. Not only will Texas law have the worst impact on women of color, Texas is also already the state with the highest maternal mortality rate for Black women. We need to say abortion rights are part of what it will take to make Black lives matter in this country.

[This] is an immigrant justice issue. Last year In Georgia, they sterilized immigrant women at a privately-run ICE detention center. This isn’t just about the right not to have kids, it’s about the right to have kids if and when we choose. That’s reproductive justice!

We need to get our unions on board because from Ireland to Argentina, wherever they’ve had a successful fight for abortion rights, it’s through mobilizing the power of labor and the power of the strike weapon to bring the courts to their knees.

We have history on our side and we have the numbers on our side. It’s still the case that 60 percent of people in this country support the right to legal, safe abortion. We need to give them a movement they deserve and we need to give ourselves the movement we deserve by mobilizing in the tens, hundreds, thousands, and millions for safe, legal abortion, free, on-demand, and without apology.

Sherry Wolf Shout out and solidarity to the brothers, sisters, and others from the city workforce who kept this place running even as the city leadership divested everything and left them to die. I’m glad to see them out here protesting before working tomorrow.

Let’s be honest. Five years ago, we had unprecedented numbers pour into D.C. at a Women’s March when Trump was elected and there was palpable fear in this country that things would turn backwards. Now, things are continuing to turn in the wrong direction and our numbers are much fewer from where they need to be. That is a problem for us.
I’m worried, as I’m sure everybody else here is worried, that there is a notion among many of our friends, co-workers, and classmates that things are not going to go backwards under a Biden administration. Some sort of deadman switch, like on the subway, clicks in and stops shit from getting so bad. Well, if the last 19 months have taught us anything, it’s that the system does not have a deadman switch.

We can go backwards. We are going backwards. We will go backwards if we do not organize, and if we do not fight, regardless of who is in the White House.

We had mass mobilizations in the eighties, nineties, and early two-thousands that stopped them from getting to where we are now. In that period of time, we had both Democrats and Republicans in charge. Sometimes, as both under Obama and Clinton, [Democrats] not only controlled the White House, but as today, they controlled Congress. Things went backward then, too. Don’t kid yourself.

We have greater restrictions. We’ve had an ideological reaction. We now have part of the Left that is questioning whether or not they should be out here, not just because they’re questioning mass protests, but because they’re questioning abortion rights, period.

We have some conversations to have with our co-workers, classmates, communities, spouses, friends, and lovers. We are going backwards without a fight. They will preside over it and say pretty words, and they will do it with a multicultural, multiethnic, rainbow flag to wrap it up.

We cannot rely on anybody. Even the Supreme court, when it stopped short of reversing abortion in [1989] said this: After the mass mobilizations in D.C., they said we are in danger of losing legitimacy in the eyes of the American public should we reverse Roe V. Wade. How would they know that today if we are not out there in huge numbers? They will not know that! That will not be the direction given to them.

Nobody is coming to save us, but us. We’ve got a lot of work to organize. You all get it, you’re here. Let’s get out there and start organizing with our comrades and not allow a moment in which the largest socialist Left that is organized in my lifetime sits down in a moment when they should be standing up and mobilizing to be out here with us. Where are you DSA? Come out here, we want to stand with you comrades.

Olivia Wood I’m a queer woman from the South, and as a southerner, I want to start by saying that the South is where most Black people in the U.S. live. For anyone who’s trying to write off the South, like “fuck the South, fuck the Republicans,” we can’t do that because that’s leaving people behind.

Republicans aren’t in power in those states because most people in those states are Republicans. They’re in power because of centuries of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and capitalist exploitation which keeps people in poverty, and poverty makes it harder to vote and participate in the political process in other ways.

It’s important for me to be here, not just as an individual person who supports abortion rights, and not just as a member of a socialist organization, but also as a union member. We heard from speakers earlier about how vital unions have been to the fights for abortion rights in other places, that’s true and important. In my union, we just passed a resolution in support of the Palestinian people which has sparked a lot of conversation, not just about that topic, but about what the role of unions should be, and is it our business to be supporting people in other places? I say, yes! Of course it is! I refuse to choose between supporting my colleagues and supporting workers around the world. I do both, always.

Being a socialist means a lot of different things to me, but one of the things is that I really believe in the phrase, “workers of the world, unite!” As workers, it’s our job to fight for our fellow union members, but also for the other unions in our city, in our state, and in solidarity with the workers in Texas, and every other state and territory controlled by the U.S., and for workers all around the world who are victims of imperialism, mostly perpetrated by the U.S., and people who are dealing with all kinds of oppression and exploitation. So, that’s why I’m here today representing [Rank And File Action], and not just Left Voice, and not just as an individual.

If you’re fortunate, like me, to be part of a workplace that’s already unionized, I encourage you to talk with your members about how you can collectively fight for things like abortion, and for other kinds of justice, and human rights. If you’re not in a unionized workplace, you don’t need a union to talk to your co-workers about justice.

Christine Pardue I’m with NYC for Abortion Rights. I want to talk about how we’ve gotten to this point, with abortion bounty hunters in Texas.

We talked a lot about how we’ve allowed Democrats to demobilize us and channel all of our energy into voting and donating money. That’s definitely a big part of why we’re here right now, but another big part of the story is decades of organized street harassment in front of abortion clinics, people stalking abortion doctors and patients, clinic protests, clinic violence. It’s gotten dramatically worse in the past few years and we’ve had basically no left response to that.

We allowed it to happen. We haven’t been in the streets to stigmatize them. We’ve let them fill the vacuum in the streets. They own the streets in front of abortion clinics. That’s not us, that’s them. Those are their streets. I think that’s how we’ve gotten here.

This isn’t just a South problem or a Midwest problem, it’s right here, under our noses, in New York. There’s an evangelical group from North Carolina called Love Life. They have totally overrun clinics there, hundreds and thousands of protestors all the time. They have a New York City chapter now.

They’re here. They’re bringing hundreds of people to clinics here. They’re live streaming it like it’s a football game. That’s happening here every single weekend. There’s also clinic harassment coordinated by the archdiocese of New York every single weekend. It used to just be the first Saturday of the month, now it’s every Saturday. It’s in Brooklyn, it’s in Staten Island, I think the Bronx is the other place they go. It’s just all the time now.

Fidelis Moscinski is a Franciscan friar and a clinic invader. He invades clinics all the fucking time, not in New York, but all over the country. He is responsible for half or more of all clinic invasions in the past few years. He is working with the archdiocese of New York to lead antis to our clinics here in New York all the time. Not only that, he gets a police escort to do it. The NYPD works with him. They call them up and they get an escort.

They have arrested two of our members. We’re just standing out there with signs in the streets to oppose them. They brought out the strategic response group, the very militarized robocops. They arrested two of us and they have an actual clinic invader that they can then lead to the entrance. This is backwards, this is wrong. Actually, it’s not backwards. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work with the cops, church, and state all working together.

Judith Butler recently, in an interview, called anti-trans TERF ideology one of the dominant strains of fascism in our time. That’s true. Another dominant strain is the anti-abortion movement. It demands an anti-fascist response. An anti-fascist response is in the streets, it’s confronting them, it’s not waiting for it to go away.

Tatiana Cozzarelli We should have the right to free healthcare. And its workers like the healthcare workers who are here, the doctors and the nurses that saved our asses during the pandemic wearing fucking trash bags—those are the folks who we need to trust. Those healthcare workers know that no one is coming to save us, like Sherry Wolf said. Our strength is in the streets, in our workplaces, speak[ing] with our co-workers, like Olivia was telling us, that’s what we need to do.

And that’s what we need to do to build a movement towards October 2, where we can be on the streets with strength, making the connections, and saying that the right to an abortion is part of the fight for Black lives. It’s part of an immigrant rights movement. It’s part of the right [to] free public healthcare, under worker control, and the right to bodily autonomy. Trans folks have the right to gender-affirming surgery for free, whenever they want it. Folks have the right to abortions for free, whenever they want it, without apology.

Let’s build a left contingent for October 2, y’all. No one is coming to save us, not the Democrats, not the Supreme Court. It is up to us.

Haley Pessin is a socialist activist based in New York. She is a member of the DSA Afrosocialist Caucus and of the Tempest Collective.

Sherry Wolf is a socialist, union organizer, author of Sexuality and Socialism and a member of the Tempest Collective.

Olivia Wood is a writer and editor at Left Voice and an adjunct English lecturer in the NYC metropolitan area.

Christine Pardue is an editor and organizer with NYC for Abortion Rights.

Tatiana Cozzarelli is a member of Left Voice, a former middle school teacher, and a current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

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