Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Guest Post: Manhattan Rally Against Anti-Choice Amendments

Jerin Alam, the former president of the Hunter Women's Rights Coalition, a FMF affiliate, and the co-founder of the NOW-NYS Younger Women's Task Force asked that I post this account of an Anti-Stupak Rally held in Manhattan a few weeks ago. It's a great example of the kind of local protest that can happen at lawmakers' offices around the country.

The December 2nd Speak-Out was a well-attended and noisy NOW-NYS Anti-Stupak Amendment demonstration outside the New York office of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Speakers like NOW-NYS President Marcia Pappas and NOW National Action VP Erin Matson commended New York's Senators Gillibrand and Schumer for their pro-choice positions but urged that the Senate Health Bill goes no farther than existing law (i.e. the 1976 Hyde Amendment) in restricting funding for abortions. The House Bill, with its Stupak provision, goes far beyond Hyde, prohibiting insurance coverage even in policies paid for with private funds.

Pappas remarked: "We insist that our pro-choice Senator Shumer please never again endorse an anti-choice Democrat. The Democratic platform is stongly pro-choice, and had Democrats welcomed only candidates with this position, this grave danger to women's lives would not be rearing it's head in today's Health Care Reform Bill."

Reproductive Rights Pioneer Bill Baird, of the 1972 Baird v. Eisenstadt decision legalizing birth control for unmarried Americans, fired up the crowd with hair-raising tales of his many "obscenity" related arrests for teaching birth control. Past NOW-NYS President Marilyn Fitterman decried the Roman Catholic Church as a "foreign soverignty dictating to our government," after which feminist singer Sandy Rapp sang her take on the Catholic Hierarchy "White Men In Black Dresses" and "Remember Rose: A Song For Choice." about the first back-street abortion fatality of the Hyde Amendment. (Listen and free download free at

Representatives from both Senators Schumer and Gillibrand (as well as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney's office) also addressed the group, along with a number of distinguished speakers including NOW-New York City President Sonia Ossorio, Brooklyn/Queens NOW Co-Presidents Rachelle Suissa and Julie Kirschner, Albany Area NOW President Mary Richmond, National Dominican Women's Caucus President Zenaida Mendez, NOW-NYS Young Feminist Task Force Chair Jerin Alam, World Can't Wait Director Debra Sweet, and New Jersey NOW President Maretta Short.

After the Speak-Out, many of the protesters marched to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, where they sang and chanted on the stage-like entrance steps, much to the interest of Christmas-display viewers, many of whom joined in the songs and signed the petitions. The demonstration continued until the police were called by the ChurchMen.

For more info on the event see:

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