The public announcement of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in early May kicked off a summer of abortion-rights protests in Rochester that was capped off Saturday by a rally against crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

According to Planned Parenthood’s website, CPCs are mobile or stationary centers that pose as fully-fledged health clinics despite pressuring patients out of getting abortions, “telling lies” about reproductive care, and many not being legitimate medical providers.

Rochester’s Democratic Socialists of America (ROC DSA) chapter and Sexual and Reproductive Justice Task Force (Roc.SRJ) organized the Saturday demonstration in Washington Square Park. Speakers touched on abortion from several angles, but the core messaging was in line with the Socialist Feminist Collective of ROC DSA’s (RocSocFem) Fake Clinics Exposed campaign, which seeks to help people identify alleged CPCs in the Rochester region and advocate against them.

“These religious-affiliated crisis pregnancy centers are fake clinics,” ROC DSA organizer Felisha Buchinger said to the crowd. “They do not provide comprehensive, ethical healthcare. They market using free pregnancy tests and free diapers to target the most vulnerable populations. And as soon as an expected parent is there, they manipulate them using shame and lies. Our area has several of these clinics. We need to expose this abusive practice and protect our community and those who come to our community seeking refuge.”

Organizers also spoke pridefully about their own abortions and argued that anti-abortion activists do not support “pro-life” policies after birth. Another action, organized by the Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes Coalition for Climate and Reproductive Justice, was announced for September 16th. The event generally served as a kicking-off point for future advocacy around reproductive health.

For instance, ROC DSA organizer Jean Allen, after positioning the anti-abortion movement within a network of far-right causes, called for people to organize in opposition.

“All we have is people,” Allen said. “[…] But the thing about having people is that it doesn’t matter unless we come together to organize. We live in a society that doesn’t teach us how to do that. It teaches us to live unequally. […] And ‘organize’ is another one of those words that I hear again and again at all of these protests, but it’s done in a very strange way, as if organizers are a different class of person. […] It’s not a special thing to do. It’s just working with other people and thinking about working with other people.”

In an interview, Buchinger directly addressed college students interested in organizing.

“We have so many college kids that organize with Rochester DSA,” she said. “There’s tons of working groups and interest areas that would fit right in with a college-age student, and there’s so many events you can plug in while you’re here for the semester and then deplug when you go home […] I personally put on a new member orientation once a month now that will just give you a rundown of everything we have going on in the chapter.”

A counter-protest, less than half of the size of the abortion-rights demonstration, gathered in response. Carrying anti-abortion signs, the counter-demonstrators claimed affiliation with Feminists for Life of America. Multiple also said they had roles with the centers alleged to be CPCs by RocSocFem.

A protestor holds up a sign that reads, "Forced Birth is a Death Sentence" in large text and "Right to Privacy" in smaller text. Legacy Tower is visible in the background.

A demonstrator holds up a homemade sign at an abortion rights protest held at Parcel 5 on May 7.


The rally was far from the first abortion-rights demonstration held in Rochester this summer.

Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York (PPCWNY) organized a protest at Parcel 5 that saw several organizers, politicians, and government officials speak out shortly after Politico published the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. They also held a rally the following weekend.

After the Supreme Court officially announced the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, multiple groups came together and organized a vigil in Genesee Valley Park. Handing out tea lights and facilitating a meditation session, the organizers called the event an act of mourning. It was followed by a “We Won’t Go Back” rally held outside Rochester City Hall, organized by a national abortion-rights coalition called Bans Off Our Bodies.

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