IT’S RELATIVELY EASY to rev up a crowd of like minded people with speeches condemning hot button problems. It’s a lot harder to stun a crowd into near silence. But late last Saturday morning that’s exactly what Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson did at the pro-choice rally at Seventh Street Park, when he labeled the Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade “an act of terrorism.”
It was not that demonstrators had lost interest in the mayor or in the politicians and others who spoke. Nor, apparently, did they reject his characterization of the Court’s decision. It looked to me as if the crowd was thinking through the mayor’s words and found them true.
It’s not as if heated language is new in the struggle over abortion rights. Anti-abortion supporters often tar abortion providers as “murderers” while not applying the same description to the men (as far as we know it’s only men) who have murdered doctors who made the termination of an unwanted pregnancy medically safe. What made the mayor’s description so striking was the target—the six Republican justices who make up the super majority on the Supreme Court.
Regardless of the rhetoric, it’s not clear yet how far the high court and anti-abortion groups want to go in order to force states like New York to ban all abortions. This state had strong laws protecting abortion rights before Roe v. Wade. Earlier this year, when the draft of court’s decision was leaked to the press, Chelly Hegan, president of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, said New York was gearing up to provide abortions for women from states where abortion would be outlawed.
This week she said that so far Upper Planned Parenthood here had seen no “noticeable” increase in abortions. Now it looks like that women from states banning abortions will travel to the nearest state that provides the service. So women from Ohio, for example, may travel to western New York State because it’s close by; here in eastern New York we’re much further away. That could change over time, Ms. Hegan said.
So far none of the turmoil created by the Court ruling has hampered Planned Parenthood locally. She said that moving the office a few years ago from Greenport to Hudson has been a success and the organization now plans to increase its Hudson schedule from 4 days a week to 5. And office location in the city has made the protesters stand out much less.
But this litany of ordinary operations hides a larger, more threatening set of consequences. What happens when someone from Texas or Oklahoma, two states where abortions are or will be outlawed, sues Planned Parenthood here for performing an abortion on a person from one of those states? What happens if a faraway state tries to arrest the person having the abortion? What if the state attempts to seize the abortion provider?
And the biggest threat is the determination by over half the states in the country to end access to abortion. History tells us that women will die. Women will die as a result of being deprived of a constitutional right. Mostly they will be poor women or teenage girls who will lack the means to travel long distances to reach competent providers. Many of these women haven’t been born yet.
It looks like Mayor Johnson got it right.