Following the Supreme Court ruling this summer to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and remove the constitutional right to abortion, states like New York are already seeing a significant influx of people who live elsewhere and need to terminate their pregnancies safely.
Staff at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY)— who voted to form a union with 1199SEIU shortly before the pandemic broke out in August 2019 and went on to fight for and win their first contract during the height of the lockdown— are now once again on the frontlines, preserving much-needed reproductive rights and gender affirming care. As the legal framework safeguarding access to safe abortion and trans-inclusive health care is being dramatically eroded in many states across the country, the work of PPGNY members and their commitment to it, is more important than ever.
1. Lissette Flores who joined the Diane L. Max Health Center in Queens (part of PPGNY) as a Healthcare Assistant, said she heard the news of the Roe v. Wade decision from a patient. “Ever since the pandemic, I don’t watch the news. I have kids and it is too nerve-wracking. We had a lot of patients who came in that week who were scared. [Safe abortion care] was a right that they took away from all of us.”
2.Lily Dalke, a Certified Midwife at the Planned Parenthood Manhattan Health Center, said: “Midwives are the original abortion providers.
It’s challenging to protect our values— compassionate, holistic, person-centered care—in a healthcare industry rooted in racism, misogyny, and making money. But while management is looking at the bottom line every day, I’m looking at the faces of my clients.
“When I feel scared, I remember that while conservative lawmakers can try to deny reality and ignore science, at the end of the day, facts are facts.
People are not going to stop needing abortion care. We had big problems with access to abortion care even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, even here in New York State. This change throws all those problems into the spotlight. Sometimes things have to get really bad before they get better.”
3. Leonela Pena (Right) has been a Healthcare Assistant at the Queens clinic for the past five years.
“We are very short staffed. Sometimes patients are waiting for more than an hour to be seen, and they take it out on us. I feel good now that we have a union, so we can fight together.”
On the Supreme Court abortion decision, she added: “Everyone should have the right to do what they want with their own body. Many people get pregnant through rape or have a health condition.
4. Mayra Morales, who recently joined the Queens cinic as a Healthcare Assistant, said: “When I heard about the Roe v. Wade decision, it felt personal.
If I had not had that option [to access safe abortion services] when I needed it, my life would have been very different.” Morales is currently receiving training to support patients who need medical abortions.
On being a Union member, she says: “I like that we have a voice. It helps to make a difference in our dayto- day.”
5. Luar Adonis Wolf, is a Patient Navigator focusing on people who arrive at the Queens center in need of trans and nonbinary healthcare.
They said: “We have definitely been seeing an influx of people seeking gender affirming care. Many people already know what is safe and what is not. Attacks on trans rights are coming from the same place as attacks on abortion rights.”
Bree Ferrin(right) works closely with Wolf as a Nurse Practitioner in the Queens clinic. She agrees with them that “the trans community has built up their own knowledge base” about what treatments and drugs work best in gender-affirming care and what are the potential side effects.
Similar to the way in which abortions were carried out illegally and often unsafely, before Roe v. Wade, the trans community has often had to resort to transition care without the support of traditional healthcare providers.
“Being in the union,” added Ferrin, “has helped us to connect with other Planned Parenthood clinics across the country and share our experiences and offer support.”
6. Kelly Eustache is a Healthcare Assistant who has worked at the DLM center in Queens for the past seven years and took part in the campaign to form a union with 1199SEIU.
“It was something that we needed here and I’m glad we have it,” she said. On the recent Supreme Court decision to remove the Constitutional right to abortion from those who can get pregnant, she added: “Everyone should have the right to choose.”