Last night, Feminist Majority Foundation, New Orleans Abortion Fund, and Tulane University Students United for Reproductive Justice came together in the midst of a week-long anti-choice extremist occupation of the city by Operation Save America / Operation Rescue to unite the community for a candlelight vigil.
This was a safe space for prochoice advocates to remember those who have been affected by clinic violence. We were joined by a Unitarian Universalist church that was harassed by anti-choice extremists, tons of community partners, and regular folks pissed off by the reign of terror their community is suffering. It was a beautiful and uniting event. My favorite part was when we we were joined by antichoice members who chanted and shouted but were drowned by the hundreds of attendees singing “Standing On the Side of Love.”
Below is the opening speech presented by New Orleans Abortion Fund’s Jessie Nieblas.
My name is Jessie Nieblas, and I am a founding board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund. We provide financial assistance to women who are in need of help obtaining abortions.This is a pro-choice space. We’re in a public park, but this space and this megaphone respect women’s reproductive autonomy. We will continue the nonengagement and nonviolence principles that we started in front of clinics.Thank you to NOPD and JPSO, who have kept our clinics safe this week.We are here for the one in three American women who will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Though data is not collected, this issue affects trans and genderqueer individuals who need abortion care as well.Each candle behind me represents three acts of violence against US abortion clinics in 2013. There are 100 candles, representing 299 acts of violence. This does not include the 6,484 disruptions or 3 blockades last year.We are here for those physicians, those staff members, those patients – both those who were able to have their scheduled abortions and those who were coerced or intimidated away.Many have asked, ‘What can I do?’ I’ll tell you, you are taking the first step right now: standing proudly for abortion access and against stigma.
The response to this invasion of our community has been incredible. From a local community activist who gathered over 1600 signatures asking Mayor Landrieu to rescind his certificates of recognition to OR/OSA; to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which brought together religious, LGBTQ, feminist, and civil rights organizations for a sign-on letter supporting health care not hate; to the First Unitarian Universalist Church, which came together in the wake of an invasion of their sanctuary. And finally, the incredible duVergne and Edwith of Feminist Majority Foundation, who organized and trained dozens of clinic escorts and legal observers. Raise your hand if you are one of them!Thank you to everyone who has stood with us. I encourage you to spread the word, tonight and onward, that New Orleans is standing with our patients and providers. As a Catholic woman, I could not be more proud to stand with, pray with, and advocate with my colleagues for reproductive justice.Please join me in a moment of silence to think of those who are represented by these candles.We’ll now open up the megaphone. I’d like to remind everyone that this is a prochoice space, and please respect the lived experiences of those who take the mic.