About 300 people gather in Syracuse for abortion rights rally

Syracuse, NY — Around 300 people gathered outside University United Methodist Church for an abortion and reproductive rights rally Saturday morning.

The rally was organized by the Women’s March Syracuse and several other local activist organizations after a US Supreme Court draft opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide, leaked last week.

The rally featured chants, speakers, music and hundreds of homemade signs. Before the speakers began, people lined the street and drivers honked their horns or waved to the activists as they passed.

The crowd began to form around 11 am on East Genesee Street. Men, women and non-binary people of all ages lined the block outside the church, which sits just a block away from the Planned Parenthood Syracuse Health Center.

A much smaller group of anti-abortion protestors, approximately 10 people, stood outside Planned Parenthood. Tom Happel said they did not come to counter-protest the rally. He said he had been protesting the clinic for weeks.

Happel and the other anti-abortion protesters were repeatedly yelled at and cursed by people in passing cars, he said. A stark comparison to the dozens of cars that honked and waved to the large crowd gathered for the rally.

The crowd at the church continued to grow before the speakers began. A focus of the speeches was the need for intersectionality in the abortion and reproductive rights movement.

Kayle Kelechian, of the New York Immigration Coalition, spoke on behalf of the hundreds of female immigrant workers across the state of New York who do not have access to health care of any kind.

She pointed out that many of the undocumented women in New York are the same people who work on farms across the state and kept food on New Yorkers’ tables through the pandemic. Kelechian wants to make sure that all women are included in the conversations surrounding reproductive rights.

Tyler Johnson, of the New York State Queer Youth Assembly, stressed that Roe v. Wade is based on the same legal precedent that protects gay marriage, interracial marriage and other LGBTQ+ issues. The overturning of Roe v. Wade will affect all people, he said.

JA’Rhea Dixon said that access to family planning and reproductive health care is a crucial issue in Black communities across the country.

“I am here today because I would like to see more Black, strong families,” Dixon said. “The only way to do that is to allow women to have a choice in their reproductive health.”

The rally featured dozens of community activists and several elected officials. The crowd of around 300 stood and chanted for around two hours. Organizers and speakers told the crowd that while they appreciated them coming to rallies, the work is just beginning.

The leaked opinion, based on a case on a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks and being debated by the court, is written by Justice Samuel Alito, according to Politico, which obtained and published the draft Monday.

After oral arguments in the Mississippi case were held in December, four other justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — voted along with Alito indicating they would uphold the law, meaning a majority of the court would vote to overturn abortion rights.

The opinion will turn the power to make laws based on abortions back to the states.

A representative from Governor Kathy Hochul’s Office reaffirmed that Hochul will protect abortion rights in New York. In a written statement, Hochul said that New York will welcome any people seeking safe and legal reproductive care.

People of all ages rallied together for abortion and reproductive rights at th University United Methodist Church in Syracuse on Saturday, May 14, 2022. Anne Hayes | ahayes@syracuse.com

Staff writer Anne Hayes covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, a story idea, a question or a comment? You can reach her at ahayes@syracuse.com.

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