by Lauren B
Felisha Buchinger stood with one hand raised, the other holding a microphone. “Reproductive rights are under attack,” she began. “What do we do?”
“STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!” answered the crowd.
About 75 people gathered at Washington Square Park in Rochester on August 27 to rally for access to abortion and against so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), or Fake Clinics. Attendees traveled from around the region to join the ROC DSA Socialist Feminist Collective for the event.
Buchinger, a member of ROC DSA’s Steering Committee, went on to explain the tactics often used by crisis pregnancy centers. “They market using free pregnancy tests and free diapers to target the most vulnerable populations. And as soon as an expected parent is there, they manipulate them using shame and lies,” she said. “We need to expose this abusive practice and protect our community and those who come to our community seeking refuge.”
Fake Clinics pose as comprehensive reproductive health centers, despite not actually providing abortions. Crisis pregnancy centers engage in providing inaccurate healthcare information, pressuring clients to not get abortions, or requiring clients attend anti-abortion classes, or church, in order to get “free” supplies like diapers or formula. The Socialist Feminist Collective has information on how to identify Fake Clinics at their website www.ExposeFakeClinicsROC.com.
Jilian Quigley and Damiene Denner spoke on behalf of the Rochester Sexual and Reproductive Task Force (@ROC.SRJ). “Victims of crisis pregnancy centers have reported being lied to about their gestational dates to prevent them from getting an abortion until it was no longer legally possible,” Denner said.
“CPCs perpetuate violence in our communities by offering care under the guise of compassion, when instead they deliver trauma to those who may be least expecting it,” Quigley said. “Stating you offer comprehensive care, without providing a full spectrum of services, is dishonest, and it is violent…inaccurately portraying abortion as a deadly procedure is violent.”
A few dozen counter-protesters were in attendance, wielding signs demonstrating their support of CPCs and doing their best to disrupt the rally. Some counter-protesters shouted through small megaphones while speakers were delivering remarks – and a few approached members of the crowd, trying to argue and share anti-abortion materials with those in attendance.
“Nobody wanted to talk with them, nobody wanted their stuff, and we stayed focused,” said Jean Allen of the Socialist Feminist Collective. “Our marshal team did a great job keeping everyone safe and effectively de-escalating the counter-protesters.”
Ami Di Amico spoke about her own abortion and her nonprofit work with pregnant people experiencing housing insecurity, making the crucial point that even legally-protected abortion is not accessible for everyone. “What can be done to give more people access to healthcare, including abortion and birth control? First, they should be easier and cheaper to get – as cheap and accessible as band-aids and beer.”
A strong theme among speakers was the need to work collectively. Remi Dobbs, a member of the Socialist Feminist Collective, pointed out that a majority of people support abortion rights, but that “right now, we have a lot of people here, and a struggle which also exists here.
Which means we need to do two things. We need to cohere, and we need to organize.”
Dobbs shared that organizing doesn’t take some special skill or talent. “Organizing doesn’t take much more than working together with other people and thinking about it,” they said. “In fact, for you to get here, each of you needed to organize!”
The next step for those called to organize is to join SFC for an October demonstration across the region. Organizers are planning direct action at Rochester-area Fake Clinics – including sharing information on their deceptive practices and providing supplies, such as diapers, to those in need.
Learn more or get involved with the October event by following this link https://forms.gle/Nuf6gBMsqwcAb7C86
You can also email RocSocFem@gmail.com or @RocSocFem on Facebook or Instagram.
The Socialist Feminist Collective is a working group of the Rochester chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.