AHRC New York City self-advocates and staff members joined our Project SHINE partners at Planned Parenthood for a virtual Day of Action 2022 on Tuesday, March 8. The day came at a perilous time for reproductive rights in the United States as the Supreme Court and numerous state legislatures aim to restrict access to abortion, contraceptive services, and sexual health professionals.

“It’s terrifying to see how government can have so much control over our bodies,” said Isabelle Faraon, an intern with AHRC NYC’s Individualized Supports who is studying towards a degree in psychology from Fordham University. “It’s my body. There’s no point in government pinning down on what women are doing as much as they are.”

Protecting New Yorkers’ Rights

Governor Kathy Hochul said to Day of Action 2022 attendees that New York State will remain consistent in protecting and defending reproductive rights and access to sexual health services.

“Women across the country need to know that you can come to New York and have your reproductive rights protected,” Governor Hochul said. “We must export imagination to the rest of the country and be that beacon of hope.”

Isabelle and others were impressed with the words of Senator Liz Krueger, representing the East Side of Manhattan. Senator Krueger is urging her colleagues to support the ratification of an inclusive equal rights amendment to the New York State Constitution. It would provide “across the board protection from discrimination,” whether it’s rooted in race, color, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

“This is a recognition that the world has changed quite a bit since we originally wrote the NYS constitution,” Senator Krueger said. “It’s amazing how many protections are missing, and it’s extremely difficult when you end up in a court case in backup and support of our rights. We need to modernize our constitution to reflect the reality of the world we’re living in.”

“Understanding Our Bodies to the Fullest”

A Planned Parenthood representative explained that the reasons women seek out sexual health services are varied, with each one holding merit and personal meaning.

“Sometimes it’s a mother with three kids already and the family can’t handle another one,” the representative explained. “Some people are not ready to have a child—that is a big responsibility. Sometimes it’s a medical concern, sometimes it’s stress. We educate people on all of their options.”

Isabelle said that people with disabilities face added challenges to accessing appropriate sexual health services, which will only be exacerbated by threats to pro-choice legislation.

“Sexual health is such a taboo topic, especially for people with disabilities, that no one wants to talk about,” she explained. “It should shine a lot more because of how important it is for our general health, with all the anti-abortion legislation going on now, this event was needed.”

She is eager to inform people in Individualized Supports and beyond about their rights. “I want to keep advocating for this stuff because is so important. Everybody deserves to understand their body to the fullest.”

Alishia Shamid, a Community Support Supervisor who attended the rally stated that the event was well organized and easy to participate in via Zoom. Venecia Septimo, who was supported by Alishia at this rally, was eager to learn more about the advocacy agenda so that she may choose to contribute her opinion in an informed manner. Venecia also stated that some of the issues she was interested in were the budget, and how we are going to get the money for reproductive health rights and sexual education. “Every single woman should be able to receive the same services provided for men. Women should be treated more equally in the health field because we are all human,” Venicia said.

About Project SHINE

AHRC NYC is one of seven community-based organizations that launched Project SHINE—the Sexual Health Innovation Network for Equitable Education with Youth with Intellectual Disabilities—and aims to close long-standing gaps in equitable access to sexual health for youth with intellectual disabilities. Interested in learning more or getting involved with Project SHINE? Visit the official Project SHINE website for more information.