Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Pro-Choice march.

Sandra Lee Phipps

abortion rights

In 1970, three years before the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, New York State legalized abortion. Support for reproductive rights has historically been strong in New York City, home to a vibrant feminist community and groups such as the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (CARASA), which helped start the Reproductive Rights National Network, as well as the headquarters of Planned Parenthood, The Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union. However, the influential leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has mounted sustained opposition to abortion rights since the 1960s, financing and organizing what became known as the right-to-life movement and ensuring that Catholic hospitals refuse to perform abortions. In 1988, when Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry encouraged anti-abortion activists to blockade clinics by chaining themselves to entrances, New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor supported the actions and urged nuns to direct all their attention to ending abortion.

The 1989 Supreme Court Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision restricting abortion rights reinvigorated the reproductive rights movement in New York City, as thousands rallied in support of abortion rights at Union Square Park. Webster upheld a Mississippi law banning abortion counseling, referral, or practice from any institution receiving public funding, unless it was to save a woman’s life. The direction action group Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!) gagged the Statue of Liberty and joined forces with ACT UP in support of sexual freedom and the separation of sex and reproduction. Together, they attacked the Catholic hierarchy’s antiabortion activities, opposition to birth control and sex education in public schools, homophobic rhetoric on AIDS, and opposition to homosexuality in the 1989 and 1990 Stop the Church protests, which drew thousands of participants as well as sharp criticism.

The 1992 Democratic National Convention brought both pro- and anti-abortion rights activists to New York City, as both sides used striking visuals to gain coverage and get their message out. Pro-abortion rights activists focused on women who died from illegal (or “coat hanger”) abortions, while anti-abortion activists presented images of and actual fetuses.

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Activist Patricia Kozitsky rallies at a pro-choice demonstration in Times Square.

Meg Handler

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Pro-choice demonstrators face off with Operation Rescue.

Sandra Lee Phipps

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan 1992
Anti-abortion activists and pro-choice supporters challenge one another outside of the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden.

Richard Sandler

Abortion Rights Photo

Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, July 12, 1992
An injunction against harassing the Democratic nominee, then-Governor Bill Clinton, did not stop anti-abortionists from lunging at Clinton and displaying what they claimed was an aborted fetus. That action resulted in criminal proceedings against anti-abortion leader Randall Terry and others. The anti-abortionist priest of Buffalo, NY displayed a fetus he described as having been aborted in a saline abortion. He did so despite the NYC Board of Health's condemnation of such behavior as a health hazard.

Meryl Levin

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
A member of Operation Rescue prays at a vigil during the Democratic National Convention.

Meg Handler

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1994
A pro-choice rally at City Hall.

Dona Ann McAdams

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1989
Pro-choice demonstrators in downtown Manhattan demonstrate against the July 3, 1989 Supreme Court Webster Decision which limited Roe v. Wade and was a turning point in the pro-choice movement. Twenty-four people were arrested in New York as they stormed the Brooklyn Bridge, including activist Mary Lou Greenberg (center).

Nina Berman

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Pro-choice march.

Meg Handler

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1989
Stop the Church protest.

TL Litt

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, July 11, 1992
Abortion clinic defenders train before an action by the anti-choice group, Operation Rescue, at the Eastern Women's Center.

Brian Palmer

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, July 2, 1992
A pro-choice protester waits inside a New York Police Department vehicle after being arrested during a direct action for abortion rights in the Holland Tunnel.

Brian Palmer

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1989
Pro-choice demonstrators in downtown Manhattan demonstrate against the July 3, 1989 Supreme Court Webster Decision which limited Roe v. Wade and was a turning point in the pro-choice movement. Twenty-four people were arrested in New York as they stormed the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Nina Berman

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Operation Rescue protesters rally outside of Madison Square Garden during the Democratic National Convention.

Meg Handler

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, July 1992
Members of the Women's Action Coalition (WAC) participate in a pro-choice demonstration during the Democratic National Convention.

Nina Berman

Abortion Rights Photo

Liberty Island, 1991
Responding to the Supreme Court Webster decision limiting state funding for abortion, members of Women's Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!) and the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) joined forces to bring attention to access to safe and legal abortion as a women's health care issue.

Meryl Levin

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Reproductive rights activists, including members of WHAM! and ACT UP, block the Holland Tunnel in support of abortion rights. These groups were awaiting the Supreme Court decision on Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which, once decided, affirmed Roe v. Wade while permitting states to impose additional regulations on abortion rights.

Meg Handler

Abortion Rights Photo

Park Ave South 1991
Members of Operation Rescue routinely used such homemade locks to attach themselves to the doors and even furniture inside women's healthcare clinics in order to close the clinics.

Meryl Levin

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1992
Operation Rescue leaders Randall Terry and Reverend Terry Schenk demostrate against abortion rights during the Democratic National Convention.

Brian Palmer

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1989
Stop the Church demonstration.

TL LITT

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan, 1989
Protest against Domino's Pizza for its financial support of anti-abortion activism.

TL Litt

Abortion Rights Photo

Manhattan 1992
Members of the Women's Action Coalition (WAC) chant while taking over Grand Central Station on Mother's Day during a demonstration to bring attention to lack of enforcement of child support payments to mothers.

Sandra Lee Phipps