Her daughters deserve a choice when they're old enough to make big decisions for themselves, said Michelle Kozak at an abortion rally outside Batavia City Hall earlier this evening.
"I believe that their rights matter and my rights matter," Kozak said. "Their lives matter and they might need an abortion someday, medically or even if they just want one, and they deserve that choice."
About 200 people turned out for the rally by 5:30 p.m. (it was scheduled to run until 7 p.m.)
The event was organized by the Genesee County branch of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), GLOW Women Rise, and Genesee County Democrats.
Dorothy Avery, known as "Cricket" to her friends, president of GLOW Women Rise, said a protest against the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday sends the wrong message, the message that women can be treated as second-class citizens and can't make decisions about their own bodies.
It's an important message, she said, because, even though abortion within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy is statutorily protected and the law isn't likely to be overturned, nothing can be taken for granted, Avery said.
"I don't know if we can say that it's never going to be overturned. I think over the last five or six years, we've seen a lot of things happen that we thought never could happen," Avery said. "So I don't think we can become complacent. And I also think it's good to let the elected officials in our area know that not everyone is conservative and that there are a fair number of people that don't agree with all of the conservative policies. And I actually think this is one issue that does cross party lines. This is about women. It's about lives. It's about control. And I think it really does cross party lines."
The rally comes at a time after a two-year pandemic that kept some political groups, like GLOW Women Rise, from holding public events. Avery said she saw the ruling as an opportunity to re-energize the organization.
"This just came about, actually, because Gina (Schelemanow) from the Democratic Socialists of Genesee County really lit the fire under me," Avery said. "I think we do become complacent and she said, 'Come on, shouldn't we do something and let people know that we care about this?' And I said, 'Absolutely.'"
The decision upholds Mississippi's prohibition on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and also allows each of the 50 state governments to decide its own abortion laws.
In New York, access to abortion procedures is already statutorily protected, allowing for abortions within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy and after 24 weeks only if the mother's health is jeopardized or the life of the child in the womb isn't viable.
There were no counter-protesters present at the rally during the time The Batavian was at City Hall, though an organizer walked through the assembly at one point and advised participants that if counter-protesters did show up, rally members shouldn't engage with them but, rather, ignore them.
During the half-hour The Batavian was at the rally, numerous vehicles drove by with the drivers honking their horns in apparent agreement with rally participants. At least, every honking horn was met with a big cheer from the participants.
Top photo: Michelle Kozak with her daughters Julia, 4, and Frannie, seven months.
Photos by Howard Owens.