After the House of Representatives voted to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, elected officials, celebrities and thousands of New Yorkers rallied Saturday in support of the pro-choice health provider in Lower Manhattan's Foley Square.
Many women's rights activists and federal, state and local lawmakers protested the cuts, which were included in an amendment to a spending bill introduced by pro-life Indiana Congressman Mike Pence.
The congressman said he wants to stop taxpayers' money from funding abortions.
Attendees at the rally said that Planned Parenthood, which is the largest sexual and reproductive health care provider in the country, offers many other necessary services for women.
"They will never wear us down, and we will stop fighting to protect a woman's right to choose and her access to full reproductive freedoms," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
"We are saying that women matter, our health care matters, our choices matter, and all of these steps that they're taking, they don't create one single job. They don't grow our economy," said Manhattan-Queens Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. "They are just rolling back the rights of women."
Ralliers said if the bill passes, millions of people in the United States, including 800,000 New Yorkers, would lose basic health care and education services.
"They give out HIV and STD screenings, they give out cancer screenings, they give out safe sex kits, they do safe sex classes for so many women. And so many women in so many towns like New York don't have access to anything except Planned Parenthood," said one demonstrator. "So if you slash that, you're literally slashing their health and their rights."
"Title 10 money is going to birth control, to breast cancer exams, to cervical cancer screenings and it's also going to early pregnancy care who women that choose to keep their child," said another. "Planned Parenthood will support someone who comes in and says, 'I need, I want to have this child.'"
Congressman Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn and voted for the Pence amendment, said his vote followed the wishes of his constituents.
"I understand the argument. I do know that they do other things other than abortions that are important services," said Grimm. "However, I think that the people of the United States feel very, very strongly that none of their money, no federal funding, should go for abortions or for counseling for abortions. And that's really the heart of the issue. They're the number-one provider in the United States for abortions and for counseling. So for that reason, I feel I'm answering the call of those who voted for me and I'm doing exactly what I said I would do."
The demonstrators wanted lawmakers to reject the Pence amendment when the spending bill heads to the Senate.
At the rally, Senator Charles Schumer told NY1 he was certain that the amendment would not pass the Senate.
Should Congress pass the spending bill with the Pence amendment, President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure.