Lines of principle were drawn on the streets as members of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church held a prayer vigil outside of Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica.
The parishioners’ presence on Saturday, October 20 was matched by that of Choices staff members and women’s reproductive health advocates, who held signs displaying pro-choice sentiments and led patients into the clinic.
In an interview before the vigil began, the Rev. Christopher M. O’Connor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary said they would be praying “for conversion for those who work [at Choices], for conversion for those who may be thinking about getting an abortion and for healing for those who have had an abortion.”
O’Connor said he hoped “that this clinic will no longer be necessary in our neighborhood.”
About 75 people came out in support of the church, praying and singing hymns behind a barricade monitored by NYPD along 147th Place. Fresh Meadows resident Jeslyn, who declined to give her last name, was one of the church members who attended the vigil.
“I’m just against abortion,” she said. “I mean, if you’re going to be having sex and get pregnant and don’t want the baby, then you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Howard Beach resident Antoinette Wolske, a retired registered nurse, also came out in support of the church.
“I was around when abortion started,” she said. “I realized that they’re taking a life, whether it’s pieces or a whole baby.”
On the other side of the street, Choices staff members and volunteers countered the vigil by donning white lab coats, holding signs and assisting patients visiting the clinic.
“It’s the microcosm of the macrocosm,” said Merle Hoffman, a women’s health activist who opened Choices in March.
“What we’re seeing on this street in Jamaica is going on all over the country. I was very glad to see strong, pro-choice women come out and show support.”
Sunsara Taylor said she has stood on the side of pro-choice at events like this all over the country since the 1990s.
“If women cannot decide for themselves, then they have no more freedom than slaves,” she said. “It really is a war on women. We’re going to lose if we don’t stand up and defend women and defend doctors.”
Before Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary held its prayer vigil, members of Church at the Rock in Brooklyn were outside of Choices that morning “advocating for the lives of the unborn and for women’s health,” said Rachelle, a member of Church at the Rock. “We love these women, we value them, and our desire is for them to love and value their children.”
Choices volunteer Emily Heller said it was important to remain vigilant in their cause.
“Even though it’s still mellow, it’s still a statement, and we’re trying to make people feel safe when coming in,” she said.