By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — About 100 people gathered in Muller Plaza at a rally for women’s reproductive rights Saturday, Oct. 2.
The rally coincided with the Women’s March happening across the country as thousands marched in support of Roe v. Wade.
The event featured music and speakers as well as pizza and lemonade.
The looming issue throughout the rally was the harsh Texas anti-abortion laws barring abortions at six weeks and offering bounties to anyone who turns in a person who had an abortion or assisted with one.
Marti Swords-Horrell, a minister at the First United Methodist Church, said she has been a minister for 39 years and came out in support of reproductive health.
“We believe in social principles on every topic you could think of,” Swords-Horrell said on the stance of their church, stating that birth control and abortions “should be available to everyone no matter if you’re rich or poor.”
“It shouldn’t be dependent on anyone else,” Swords-Horrell said.
Diandra Sangetti-Daniels organized the rally in partnership with Family Planning and said she thought it was important the community be involved in issues such as women’s rights.
“Women’s rights have been up for grabs,” Sangetti-Daniels said. While acknowledging New York is a “progressive state,” it was important to her that people “stay informed” and “stay active,” she said
“It all started with Donald Trump stacking the Supreme Court with anti-abortion judges,” Sangetti-Daniels said.
Sangetti-Daniels’ high school friend at Oneonta High School, Moppy, opened the event with their singer-songwriter work on an electric guitar.
Chip Northrup of Dallas, Texas, and Cooperstown, was at the rally and spoke about some of the historical significance of abortion laws.
“I think the law is ridiculous,” Northrup told AllOtsego.com prior to his speech on the anti-abortion laws in his home state. “It’s not just unconstitutional, it’s absurd. It’s like a prank.”
Northrup also called the law a “gigantic publicity stunt” and “embarrassing.”
Amber Townsend-Diaz gave a heart wrenching speech about her experience with having a child pass away and the purpose of late-term abortions for such situations.
“Late term abortions aren’t done by evil cackling doctors,” Townsend-Diaz said, who explained that late-term abortions are “done for the baby who will only know pain in their short life.”
Townsend-Diaz said, in anti-abortion states “I would’ve had to wait until my life was in danger before I can terminate the pregnancy” or “jailed just for something that is normally, but sadly, a part of life.”
Kasia Swift, a community educator for Family Planning, talked about her experience with a 19 year old friend who she referred to as “Lucy” who had an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, which she felt she handled in some ways “very well and other things not so great.”
“I did not understand how common and how safe and how important abortions are,” Swift said. She described her own experience of wanting to have a family and realized this was not the same for everybody.
“I forgot that not everybody wanted that and it became clear that this was not a moment of celebration,” Swift said.
Swift, who tabled for Family Planning prior to the rally, giving out condoms and information on birth control, offered advice on how to be supportive to someone who had an unintended and unwanted pregnancy.
“When someone is facing an unintended pregnancy, that is not a time for lectures,” Swift said. “That moment is just to listen, hold that space with her, listen to what she said and needed and wanted.”
Swift said her role in that moment “was for me to be open to her choice” after she made the decision of what she wanted to do.
Swift said the process “helped unlearn a lot of misinformation” about abortions. She emphasized there was “no evidence” abortions affected a women’s mental health and abortion laws “only increased the amount of unsafe and fatal abortions.”
Swift said Lucy was relieved after the procedure and was able to study abroad and do all the things she wanted to do. It became “not secret, but just something that happened.” She contrasted that with her own decision to have a family after her own unintended pregnancy.
Swift’s advice was “you trust the decision they make is the right one for them and you give them a whole lot of respect.”
Debra Marcus, CEO of Family Planning, encouraged people at the rally to register to vote and become involved in local and national politics, as well as consuming legitimate and varied news sources.
“Make it clear that there will be consequences at the voting booth,” Marcus said. “Politics is the art of the possible and all these steps are very possible.”
Mayor Gary Herzig, along with mayoral candidate and common councilmember Mark Drnek, D-Eighth Ward, were on hand watching the event.
“I’m old enough to remember before Roe V. Wade,” Herzig said to AllOtsego.com. “Young women getting backroom abortions and dying from it. We don’t want to go back to those days.”