On August 26, which is Women’s Equality Day, a broad coalition of groups joined together in the Unite for Justice Day of Action. In all 50 states, grassroots activists and progressive organizations held rallies, potlucks, marches, and teach-ins to flex our muscles and celebrate our might as we prepared for the tough challenge ahead: the fight to #StopKavanaugh.
Where I live in New York City, there was a big rally in Foley Square outside of City Hall in Lower Manhattan, and I joined representing Reproaction with our partners and friends-in-action at Lady Parts Justice. The event opened with Lady Parts Justice’s “Human Fake Clinic” action – a theatrical interpretation of what happens when an unsuspecting young woman walks into an anti-abortion fake clinic seeking help, but only receiving lies, delay tactics, and shame. A full video of the performance can be found here.
Lady Parts Justice’s Ariel Pellman took the stage after the performance to discuss how fake clinics relate to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In October last year, an undocumented teenage girl known as Jane Doe being held in detention in Texas was denied the abortion procedure she requested. Instead, officials with the Department of Health and Human Services took her to a fake clinic to talk her out of her decision. The ACLU took on her case, Hargan v. Garza, which was heard by Judge Kavanaugh in his position on the DC Circuit Court. Kavanaugh ruled against the teen’s access to the medical care she needed, instead positing his own delay tactics to push her past the legal limit for abortion care in Texas. While she was eventually able to receive her care, his attempt to block it speaks volumes for his likely disdain for undocumented people and people seeking abortion care.
I was wearing a gold vest exclaiming, “ASK ME ABOUT FAKE CLINICS,” so I fielded many questions, and I was rather surprised how few people in the crowd knew about fake clinics. The group was gathering in a left-wing space and most were impassioned by abortion rights as their reason for rallying that day, but the theatrical presentation of fake clinics’ tactics seemed to blow people’s minds. What shocked even more was the knowledge that there are over a dozen in the five boroughs of New York City. I loved the opportunity to answer questions and share my passion to #ExposeFakeClinics, but it definitely affirmed that we have a lot of work to do if we want the deception to end for good.
The other highlight of the rally was a speech presented by Therese Patricia Okoumou, the woman who scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July to protest family separation and detention at the border. She wore a green dress made to look like Melania Trump’s infamous jacket that says, “I really don’t care. Do U?’, but instead the back read, “I REALLY CARE, WHY WON’T U?” and then “BE BEST” over her butt in reference to the first lady’s campaign against bullying, punctuating her speech with “Be Best My Ass!” That alone was pretty cathartic to witness. Before that, however, she described her two abortions and exclaimed that she was proud to share her story. Her confidence and energy were contagious and her joyous zeal lit the crowd up.
Rallies like this one make resistance work fun. I really appreciated that even though we were discussing dire issues and prepping for a tough fight ahead, we were able to do it with joy, art, and humor. The way things are going with the courts, especially, I can only expect more events like this will be needed to charge our activism batteries and work in coalition towards shared, intersectional goals.