Activists unite to raise awareness of groups spreading anti-abortion rhetoric.
By Timia Cobb
Pro-choice activists gathered Saturday to protest groups they say rob women of their free choice by spreading misinformation on abortion and other issues.
The activists targeted New Hope Family Services, a nonprofit Christian adoption agency located at 3519 James St. New Hope successfully sued the state in 2019 for being required to accept all adoptive families, regardless of sexuality, saying it violated their right to freedom of religion under the First Amendment.
The seven activists were protesting the agency’s exclusion of same-sex couples and what they describe as New Hope’s deceptive practices to discourage women from seeking an abortion and other health services.
“People have a vague notion of them as a nonprofit,” said Stephanie Kenific, a founding organizer of New York State for Abortion and Queer Liberation, which helped organize the action. “But I mean, the truth is so much more sinister, and so what we’re doing today is just sort of raising awareness that there was a pretty predatory organization right here in the city.”
Liberation activists aim to call out all crisis pregnancy centers and organizations that advertise themselves as healthcare clinics that provide abortions. But, when people come to those groups for services, they are often pressured into believing that abortion is wrong, the protesters said.
Kenific says she wants women to know that abortion is still legal in New York state despite rollbacks elsewhere, and she wants to ensure crisis centers don’t fool community members and prey on women trying to exercise their right to an abortion.
“New Hope parks its van outside Planned Parenthood, as well as community health clinics like Syracuse community health,” Kenific said. “And what they do is they just try to get people onto their bus. If they’re outside Planned Parenthood, their goal is to disrupt people’s appointments. So convince them, ‘Hey, come on to our bus; everything we do is free.’ And their mission is really to convince people not to have an abortion and to live a life of abstinence unless you’re married.”
New Hope representatives could not be reached for comment.
The protesters stood outside New Hope’s James Street offices as the honks of car horns signaled support from local drivers. Carli Barry, with Syracuse’s Party for Socialism and Liberation, waved two signs, both calling out New Hope for describing itself as a medical center. Barry said the adoption service lacks professional medical staff and is operated mainly by volunteers who support New Hope’s anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ views.
“We just want women and anyone who can get pregnant to have agency and make informed decisions, and I just don’t think that New Hope gives room for people to make informed decisions,” Barry said.
While a judge has ruled in favor of New Hope, Liberation members say they hope that by taking advantage of their own First Amendment right to protest, they can raise awareness of what they see as New Hope’s deceptive practices.
“If we can’t get rid of them, we can’t abolish the fake clinics,” Kenific said, “then we can make them so infamous that everybody knows who they are and not to go to them.”
Timia Cobb’s work for The Stand is supported by the Knight Foundation’s “Combating Disinformation in Communities of Color” grant program.