Roughly 130 Ithaca residents gathered at the Bernie Milton Pavillion in the Commons on Sunday afternoon to rally for female reproductive rights and protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Demanding pro-choice rights in light of Kavanaugh’s upcoming Senate confirmation hearings, protestors emphasized the need to protect Roe v. Wade (1973), a landmark Supreme Court case that ruled that abortion was legal under a woman’s right to privacy.
Kavanaugh’s nomination has raised concerns that a 5-4 conservative-leaning Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade in the near future, according to The Washington Post.
An Ithaca resident for 36 years, Sue Perlgut helped plan the rally in only nine days. Perlgut serves as a committee member of Eliminating Abortion Stigma, an Ithaca-based organization founded in 2015 by local women, which advocates for greater access to safe and legal abortions.
As one of the principal organizers of the rally, Perlgut opened the rally with a speech, inspiring chants including “We say no to Kavanaugh!” and “We will not go back!”
Perlgut, who makes movies that attempt to decrease “the stigma surrounding abortion,” received an illegal abortion in 1965, an incident that motivated her to rally for women’s reproductive rights.
“I was one of the lucky ones — I survived. I actually went to an MD. It cost me a third of my salary, but that’s what I did. Because it was illegal, and there was ‘hush hush’ around it, there was a lot shame around it,” Perlgut told The Sun.
“There’s no shame to having [an] abortion — it’s part of our right as women to do what we want with our bodies,” Perlgut continued. “I never never want to see women have to go through what I went through — the shame, the hiding, the not knowing. I was lucky I went to a doctor, not knowing if I would live. It’s a really horrible thing, and no man should tell us what our rights are ever.”
Roz Kenworthy, one of the protestors and an EAS member, worked on the staff of Cornell Health for over 30 years.
“For 30 years, I talked to Cornell students about their sexual needs, and if there was a simple thing to say about all this is that people are uncomfortable with the phrase ‘Abortion is a method of birth control,’” Kenworthy said.
“[Abortion] works. Contraceptives don’t always work. People have used abortion for centuries, millennia even,” Kenworthy added. “People need birth control, and that’s why it keeps happening. It would be a terrible shame to appoint this guy to the Supreme Court if his vote is going to be used to eviscerate Roe v. Wade.”
Following Perlgut’s opening words, Ashley Maguire, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood in the Finger Lakes Region, urged the crowd to rally against the New York State Legislature law that restricts abortion to within a 24-week threshold.
“Our laws are out of date with Roe v. Wade,” Maguire said.
The attendees of the rally responded to impassioned statements with snaps and yells of agreement, chanting “Stand up and fight back!” and “Hey ho ho Kavanaugh has come to go!”
Taf Squires, another one of the speakers and an Ithaca resident since 1975, said she was especially moved to help plan an “Day of Action” in Ithaca to supplement national fervor on the issue.
“Our wildest hope is that lots of young women come out and rally. It’s your lives. It’s not going to be me who needs an abortion,” Squires said. “As [Perlgut] always says, ‘We ain’t going back there — we will lie down in the streets before we go back to pre-Roe v. Wade.’”