SARANAC LAKE – Locals rallied for and against the right to abortion this weekend at events in Glens Falls and Saranac Lake, both part of national movements taking sides on the controversial issue as it is is being debated by the United States Supreme Court, lower courts and activists across the country.
Chain of life
On Sunday afternoon, a chain of about 25 anti-abortion activists stood along River Street in Saranac Lake, a local link in the annual Life Chain event which is held across North America on the first Sunday of ‘October.
Event organizer Colleen Miner of Saranac Lake – who also co-chairs the Respect Life group of the Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg with her husband John – said she was also aware of the events in Massena, Potsdam and Plattsburgh Sunday.
“We stand for an hour like a silent and praying witness” said Jean.
“The signs speak” Colleen said.
Colleen said she held retreats for women who had abortions and heard their stories of regret.
She is also passionate about the issue as a mom and grandmother. Colleen has three daughters and eight grandchildren. Obviously, she said, she’s counting the one her daughter Ellen McBride is currently wearing, due in January.
Parmelee Tolkan of Lake Placid attended a branch of the Women’s March: Rally for Abortion Justice at Crandall Park in Glens Falls on Saturday with an eight-person contingent from the Tri-Lakes region.
It numbered around 150 people in the abortion rights rally and around 15 counter-demonstrators across the street.
She said that because abortion rights are mostly well protected in New York City, she missed the turnout at the event on Saturday.
“I would think … that people would be complacent”, she said. “I was pleasantly surprised. “
Tolkan said she came from a long line of abortion activists. She said her grandmother and great-grandmother were instrumental in founding Planned Parenthood in 1916.
Abortion is a controversial issue, with strong and harsh feelings on both sides. Anti-abortion advocates believe that hundreds or thousands of babies are killed every day by legal abortion; Abortion rights advocates believe that people’s rights to make decisions about their bodies and health care are threatened by a possible rollback of these laws.
There is not a lot of ground for compromise.
“I think for a lot of us who are pro-life or pro-choice… there is no common ground,” Claudia Fennell of Saranac Lake said at the Life Chain event. “I believe abortion kills a baby. … It’s a sad situation.
“I think it’s the worst sin in America”, Dan Salley from Keeseville said at the Life Chain event.
John said the event was not intended to attack people who have had abortions.
“We can love them both; woman and child “, said Jean.
He thinks there are better ways to deal with unintended pregnancies than “Eliminate the problem”.
“I don’t hate anyone. Even the Pope said that you can sometimes understand why women have it, so I do not condemn any woman ”, said Salley. “But sin must stop. God is not going to continue to bless our country if we do not stop.
Salley has said he would like the landmark Supreme Court abortion case Roe v. Wade be canceled, but he wouldn’t want people put in jail for it.
The response from passing motorists has been mixed. Some honked or raised their thumbs. Some who passed shouted “It’s my right to choose! “ through their windows. Others just threw up their middle finger.
A drop of cells or a soul?
Tolkan said that a fetus only becomes a human when it is able to survive outside the womb.
“He has no soul” she said. “It’s a drop of cells.”
Fennell said that a fetus is “more than a globe of cells.” She said he has the potential to be an adult human. She opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, which are sometimes exceptions for anti-abortion activists. She said she was okay with it, but a speaker at a Catholic radio station changed her mind.
She said the circumstances didn’t matter; “He is still a child of God.”
Salley said if an egg is fertilized it becomes a human unless it is stopped by humans or nature.
“It’s not your body. It’s another body that lives in your body ”, said Salley.
Religions and Sciences
Tolkan said abortion is a “room problem” and that it is not for the government to decide on their choice.
“Your religion preaches it to you, and I respect it totally; but your religion, under our constitution, should not be imposed on other people ”, Tolkan said.
Most of the anti-abortion rally participants had religious affiliation, but said religion was not always the reason for their stance on abortion. Religion also plays a role, McBride said, but she maintains that science is on their side.
Salley pointed out that a developing fetus has DNA distinct from the DNA of the mother.
McBride said a fetus begins to have a heartbeat at five to six weeks pregnant, which science uses to mark the transition from embryo to fetus.
She said that the growing fetus depends on the body of the parent, but she thinks it is a separate body.
McBride was raised in an abortion house, but growing up she was able to make her own decision. She heard the arguments about the right to abortion and said she is still “firmly pro-life”.
“Some of my best friends are pro-choice”, McBride said. “It is sometimes difficult, but we are really respectful of each other. “
Abortion has become a hot topic in recent months as Texas in May passed a law banning abortions after six weeks. The Supreme Court chose not to block this law or to rule on its constitutionality.
A federal judge is expected to decide soon to block the law after President Joe Biden asked him to suspend it.
The Supreme Court’s 2021-2022 term begins today and includes a case regarding a Mississippi bill banning abortions after 15 weeks.
Since Roe v. Wade, the court allowed abortion as a right for up to about 24 weeks.
Activists keep an eye on these decisions. Colleen said she tries to stay positive. She said the Biden administration is “Not friendly with the pro-life”, but John said he is “Encouraged” by the current composition of the judges of the Supreme Court.
“We have a majority of judges who see the value of human life”, he said.
But he said their Sunday event was not meant to influence those upcoming decisions. He hopes the court will make its decisions on the law, not popular opinions.
Tolkan believes several Supreme Court justices shouldn’t be there, due to how the then-Republican-majority Senate blocked former President Barack Obama’s court appointments, but “pushed through” former President Donald Trump for conflicting reasons.
Both sides of the debate believe they have the majority of the people behind them and feel that the people in power are against them. But polls asking if people identify as “anti-abortion” Where “Pro-choice” are often divided right in the middle. Gallup, a non-partisan polling organization, recently found that 49% of people identify as pro-choice and 47% identify as pro-life, a change from 2019 numbers. A graph showing trends since 1995 shows that both sides are turning around in popular opinion, but come closer and closer to a 50/50 split every year.
The National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion organization, estimated in 2020 that there had been 62 million abortions in the United States since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights organization, estimated that 52 million abortions were performed between 1973 and 2011. There has been no new data from the institute since then, but he estimates that just under a million abortions are performed each year.