Protesters gathered in Mineola Friday night, rallying against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Newsday TV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Bart Jones and Keldy Ortiz. It was written by Chayes.

Now the controversy rages on in places like Long Island.

In Hempstead on Friday, volunteers sat outside Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic on Fulton Avenue, handing out flyers, according to spokeswoman Jacquelyn Marrero: “Abortion is your legal right in New York State” and “Abortion is health care.”

In Wading River, the state president of the anti-abortion March for Life was rattling off plans to change the minds of what she calls “the abortion tourist”: abortion-seeking women whose home states ban abortion and will come to places like Long Island to terminate a pregnancy.

Within hours of Friday morning’s seismic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning national, legalized abortion — revoking 1973’s Roe v. Wade precedent and returning the question of abortion’s legality to each state — activists, abortion providers, abortion foes and everyday Long Islanders were contemplating a post-Roe nation.

As nationwide, the local reactions were polar, each side irreconcilable with the other. One is fearful, furious and sad at the loss of what it considers to be the right to a constitutionally-protected medical procedure key to a woman’s bodily autonomy involving just a cluster of cells. Another side is relieved, rejoicing and thankful that there will be fewer such procedures no longer authorized by what it considers to be a wrongful precedent allowing the infanticide of the unborn.

“On behalf of the 60 million babies who’ve been brutally murdered by abortion, I’m celebrating for them today. And for those who will not be murdered today because of this, I’m celebrating. But we’re still working, because we know, in New York, there’s gonna be many, many people coming from other states,” said March for Life NY president Joni Lupis.

“Now, today,” she said of New York, “it became the abortion-tourist capital of the world.”

Meanwhile, a rally Friday evening outside the Nassau County courthouse in Mineola drew more than 250 people opposed to overturning Roe. Ariana Levin, 18, of Westbury, a rising sophomore at Spelman College, said: “Our grandparents and the people before us have fought so hard and for so long for us to have reproduction rights, and now it’s getting taken away from us.”

Her grandmother, Barbara Levin, 74, stood next to her and recalled, pre-Roe, having to drive women to the hospital who had gotten illegal abortions.

“I’ve watched what they had to go through,” the grandmother said. 

Protesters outside the Nassau County courthouse in Mineola on Friday.

Protesters outside the Nassau County courthouse in Mineola on Friday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

There were 5,656 abortions performed on Long Island women in 2019 — 2,996 from Nassau and 2,660 from Suffolk — according to the state Health Department’s vital statistics. By comparison, there were 28,878 live births by Long Island mothers — 13,877 from Nassau and 15,001 from Suffolk.

In New York City, there were 46,981 abortions performed on women who live in the city, and 104,294 live births, the statistics say. And statewide, New Yorkers had 74,211 abortions and 220,536 live births.

In 2019, 8.9% of New York State abortions were performed on out-of-state women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Abortion Surveillance report.

Religious views differ

Religious leaders on Long Island were not monolithic in their views on Friday’s court ruling, a draft of which had leaked in May.

Bishop John Barres, head of the Roman Catholic Church on Long Island, said in a statement released by the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which covers the Island: “We welcome today’s” decision “with gratitude to God and all those who, over the last 50 years, selflessly witnessed to the sacredness of every human life.”

“The right to life is inalienable and the foundation of every other human right,” the statement said. 

He added that the ruling “rectifies a grave injustice that has resulted in the taking of more than sixty million preborn, innocent lives and caused an avalanche of devastation to families, the dignity of women, and our culture.”

But, the bishop said, the ruling does not fully “set everything right,” because states can still allow abortion.

Barres’ counterpart in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, took the opposite stance.

“Although we knew it was coming, I am very disappointed to see this decision be made,” he said in an interview. Abortion “should be a woman’s informed decision. It’s a health care decision.”

He added that “religious bodies who believe unequivocally that life begins at conception” should “take a close look at the science.”

He predicted that “this is the beginning, not the end, of what I believe is going to be a long struggle against basic human dignity and rights,” with future court decisions unfavorable on subjects such as birth control and adoptions by LGBTQ people.

Other debates linger

There is also a split fracturing foes of abortion: Should Congress ban abortion everywhere in the United States, overriding states that choose to allow abortion?

Yes, said Lupis.

No, says Lorraine Gariboldi, former executive director and currently a board member of the Life Center of Long Island, which encourages women to carry their pregnancies to term, with locations in Hempstead, Smithtown, Massapequa and Deer Park.

She said she’s long considered Roe to have been wrongly decided and believes fewer women will now have abortions in the United States because of Friday’s ruling.

“That’s not to say there won’t be abortions,” she said, “and that still breaks my heart.”

Still, she said, she thinks voters in each state should decide their state’s policy.

But supporters of abortion rights want a nationwide policy to allow abortion.

At the rally Friday evening in Mineola, Jodi Baum, 50, of Valley Stream, held a handmade sign referencing SCOTUS, typically an abbreviation for the "Supreme Court of the United States." Baum’s sign read: “Sexist Chauvinistic Overreaching Toxic Unjust Sellouts.”

Baum, thinking of her sons, ages 16 and 19, she said she’s “heartbroken” for them, because “they’re no longer living in a society that has rights.”

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