HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) – At 19 years old, Chemung County resident, Dale Witkowski went through with a procedure that she would regret for the rest of her life: an abortion.
“I knew that this was wrong and I prayed for four years, ‘Please God give me back my baby…put him back in my womb,'” said Witkowski, who is now a board member for a local pro-life advocacy group, Chemung Valley 4 Lyfe.
She said her mother had forced her to get an abortion. After the leaked Supreme Court majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Witkowski is now feeling somewhat vindicated.
“I think it should be overturned because it’s [abortion] essentially ending a life of an individual… Women have autonomy over their own body, but this is a separate child a different person,” said Witkowski.
Though, pro-life advocates in the Southern Tier, say that even if the decision stands, they will still have work to do.
“In our state [New York], here, it won’t change anything because abortion will still be legal, so we still want to continue our job to try to change the hearts and minds of people to understand what abortion really is,” said Steve Spaulding, former President of Chemung Valley 4 Lyfe.
In 2019, New York became one of the first states in the nation to codify the right to abortion into state law. Lawmakers simultaneously ended the state’s ban on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“I think in New York State we are well protected, and a national ban would not be an easy thing to go through,” said Johnston, not too worried that her clinic will shut down anytime soon.
The day after the Court opinion was leaked, the Southern Tier community showed up in numbers, in cities like Binghamton and Ithaca, to protest the possible banning of abortion. One local abortion clinic said they were not expecting the amount of support they have received.
“We’ve had so many unsolicited donations…and we haven’t even tried to fundraise! People are just giving us money, and we’ve gotten about up to $16,000 now,” said Peg Johnston, Owner and Director of a local abortion clinic, Southern Tier Women’s Health Services.
After this reaction, pro-choice advocates wonder if the decision will even hold.
“The outpouring of support just shows that this is, way, out of step with what American people want,” said Johnston.
Regardless of the decision, planned parenthood services in the Southern Tier are already seeing the impacts of restrictive abortion laws.
“New York is already seeing patients from out of state, from as far as Texas, who are turning to our state for access to comprehensive sexual reproductive healthcare, which includes abortion,” said Jacquelyn Marrero, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.
Thirteen states, including Texas, have trigger laws that would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But as of right now, the right to abortion is still constitutionally protected.
“Know that abortion is still safe and legal throughout the country, and here in New York. If you have an appointment- keep your appointment. It is your right,” said Marrero.