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Advocates, lawmakers rally in Albany for abortion rights

Following a leaked U.S. Supreme Court document showing the court is poised to strike down the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, abortion rights advocates gathered at the New York State Capitol to rally Tuesday evening.

Women and some men in bright pink gathered outside the capitol, some holding signs that displayed messages such as, “We won’t go back. We will fight back!”’

Planned Parenthood members organized the rally to protest the expected decision and to stand in solidarity with women in states where access to abortion will be severely restricted, if not completely unavailable.

Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul told demonstrators abortion rights will be protected in New York by the 2019 Reproductive Health Act, which codified the Roe decision into law.

Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood President and CEO Chelly Hegan says it took less than 12 hours to organize.

“It represents how outraged we've been ever since 2016, when women's rights and respect for women has just been dwindling in the public sphere as much as you could ever imagine. I think that also, for many of us, our hearts are breaking for women in 26 states who are not going to have access to abortion by the end of the year - and that's 30 million people who had been accessing care or would have access to care who now are second-class citizens,” she said. “A woman in Alabama will no longer have the same equal rights as a woman in New York. That's not how this country was designed to be and that's incredibly heartbreaking.”

Albany gardener Arden Neubert Eddy said she came to the rally for other people’s daughters, nieces and sisters.

“Honestly, they have been trying to do this for decades at this point. They've been doing the same thing with Medicaid and Medicare, so I'm not surprised. That's why we're all out here. That's why we need to continue to fight for this - because the minute that we become complacent and the minute that we stop fighting for this, because we believe everything is OK - they're never going to stop fighting for this. So, there's no reason for us to.”

Hochul, along with her newly tapped Lieutenant Governor pick Antonio Delgado, a Democratic Hudson Valley congressman, joined legislative leaders at the rally. Hochul promised New York will remain a safe haven for women seeking abortions.

“This is where it all started my friends, and this is where the fight has to end. We'll take it to the streets. We'll do whatever we can to protect the women of this state, but we also have to worry about our sisters in the other states, as well. That's what we do as New Yorkers,” she said. “We say we'll reach out our hands to you. Because guess what, sisters? The Statue of Liberty stands in our harbor, reaching out her hand to all those who are oppressed. And if you live in a state where they're so willing to strip away your rights, then you are also among the oppressed.”

Kicking off what will be a compressed campaign for lieutenant governor, Delgado stressed the importance of this year’s election.

“It feels like all the things that people before us have sacrificed and shed blood and marched and protested for, is being reneged. We will not go back.”

While many of those attending the rally were animated and passionate, Eddy, in her 20s, said she couldn’t help but be cynical about how America got to the point of overturning the landmark decision. Like many others, she pointed to the 2016 presidential election.

“I think that there's complacency, but I don't think it's all necessarily voluntary. I do think that America has a duty to its constituents to get information out and to make information accessible. Inaccessible information is a major problem here. The fact that people don't care about the news is a major problem here. That's why we're getting to this point. That's why we have to worry about a Supreme Court overturning one of the most monumental pieces of legislation in American history, because of complacency. And because people thought, ‘Oh, everything's fine. I'm living in the greatest country in the world.’ Well, maybe you should think twice about that.”

Planned Parenthood’s Hegan says women need to begin to think about rebuilding an abortion network similar to ones that existed before 1973 to connect women to services.

“What I do think is different is that we have access to medication abortion, which as a technology has really changed women's lives,” she said. “So, to manage your own abortion at home with medication that you can pick up at the pharmacy really expands the possibilities for many people. We didn't have that in the 70s.”