Thousands of New Yorkers, including Stony Brook students, attended a rally in support of Planned Parenthood on Saturday that featured speeches from Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and Congressman Anthony Weiner.
The Stony Brook chapter of the FMLA sent at least 7 students to join in the protests, according to co-president Sabba Hussain.
“Planned Parenthood isn’t just about providing abortions,” she said, pointing out that they provide various other health care services for women like pap smears.
Since retaking the House, the GOP has cut the WIC by 10% , attempted to redefine rape, and now, defund planned parenthood. The FMLA plans to fight those cuts.
“It’s important to have young people there because we need to show that this really does matter to us and we’re not a completely apathetic generation,” Hussain said about going to the rally.
The two highest profile guests at the rally did their best to reassure the crowd.
“These dangerous cuts that passed the house are dead on arrival in the United States Senate.” guaranteed Senator Schumer.
Representative Weiner did his best to lighten the mood. “My name is Anthony Weiner and I stand for women! I’ll let someone else write that headline.”
In the crowd, an organization called Raising Women’s Voices got protesters to sign a petition described as “a national initiative to define contraception as preventative care.”
Eesha Pandit, one of their representatives, spoke to us about the organization’s goal. They didn’t just come to push back against the cuts, but also to ask for more coverage.
“We’re trying to define health care as anything a woman might need,” she said. Pandit wasn’t shocked to learn that abortion rights were under attack once again, but was somewhat surprised that even pap smears and mammograms would be affected as a result of this legislation.
“The lesson is that nothing is safe from politicization when it comes to reproductive rights,” said Pandit.
There were some pro-lifers on the periphery of the rally holding posters with religious imagery and a picture of a mauled toddler, labeled as an aborted baby. They described Planned Parenthood as running “massive abortion mills” and the “McDonald’s of the industry.”
Pro-choice attendees followed them, drowning them out with tambourines.
“These women are harassing me,” one man complained to the nearby police. “I shake my tambourine whenever I see a misogynist!” responded the woman.
Police separated the two sides and moved the pro-lifers across the street.
Nearby a woman, who wished to remain anonymous, was made emotional by the counter-protests. She received an abortion in 1975 through Planned Parenthood and has remained an active supporter ever since.
“Planned Parenthood seemed like they were on a real mission to help women,” she said. “They were welcoming and supportive,” but all of that good, she told us, has been “subverted by right-wing venom.”
Additional reporting by Rachel Clark and Adam Peck