Skip to main content

Baby heartbeats in New York

A rare pro-life rally in Times Square came in the aftermath of the state’s new late-term abortion law

Baby heartbeats in New York

The “Alive from New York” pro-life rally (Handout)

A New York moment:

On Saturday several national pro-life groups descended on Times Square for a rally that drew thousands of people, the first high-profile rally against abortion in the city in recent memory. The national groups decided to host the rally in the aftermath of the state’s legalization of late-term abortion earlier this year. But these groups were markedly absent from efforts to lobby against the law in the state Legislature ahead of time. Local pro-life organizations—a handful of people with little outside help—did all the grinding work trying to prevent the law’s passage for a dozen years in Albany. 

Nevertheless the national groups (Focus on the Family, March for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life), unlike these smaller groups, had the money to host a major Times Square event.

The event was able to engage many New Yorkers who had never done any public activism on the abortion issue before, especially from the local evangelical community. (Locally, Catholics have been more politically organized and engaged on this issue). The crowd of thousands that packed into a big pedestrian island and spilled onto sidewalks across the street was ethnically diverse—Asian, African American, Hispanic. Many I interviewed in the crowd were from Times Square Church, a large evangelical church in the city, or from churches in Harlem. 

Fayon Harris, a young African American volunteer from Times Square Church, said Saturday’s rally was the first pro-life event she’d gone to, but she added that her church had prayed about the abortion law in small group meetings this year. 

“God is the one who changes hearts,” she said. 

Agnes Hui, a Catholic from Prospect Park South, Brooklyn, said she had never participated in a pro-life rally either. Now she wants to get involved in going up to Albany, she said. As someone of retirement age, she’s become concerned lawmakers will legalize assisted suicide after having passed the abortion law. 

“We are the next victim,” she said. The Legislature has been closely debating legalizing assisted suicide. 

Cops formed a blockade around the rally for managing the crowds and drawing a boundary from a small group of counterprotestors, many dressed in Handmaid’s Tale red robes, who chanted obscenities and shouted “Shame!” (And, bizarrely, one topless woman streaked across the crowds with a rainbow flag while wearing “LGBT for Trump” gear.) But the counterprotestors scattered partway into the rally without much fanfare.


An ultrasound projected at the pro-life event. (Handout)

The event culminated with a big projection of a live 3D ultrasound (a technical feat!) of pro-life activist Abby Johnson’s 36-week, in utero baby boy. A hush came over the crowd in Times Square, and a nurse narrated—“Oh, a yawn!” Then the technicians broadcast the baby boy’s heartbeat over a momentarily quiet Times Square. The thud reverberated. 

Worth your time:  

Photos in the exact same spots, 68 years apart, show different fashions on the streets of New York.

This week I learned:

The Daily News reports that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce his run for president this week, surprising not very many people after his trips to Iowa. But nearly 80 percent of New Yorkers don’t think he should run, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Quinnipiac’s analyst called it “a rare moment of unity among New Yorkers.” 

A court case you might not know about: 

A very strange family court decision—highlighted this week by Eugene Volokh—came down in favor of a Catholic father who admitted to adultery in his divorce but wanted sole custody of his 11-year-old son who has avoided contact with him. The judge urged the wife and child to forgive the man, lecturing them that they were misinterpreting the Bible. 

“John and Mother shun Father ‘in the name of religion’ both stating that they have forgiven Father, but that forgiveness does not require reconciliation,” Judge Mary Carney wrote. “Theologically, this may be accurate but in the instant case John and Mother’s religious reasoning is incongruent with Scripture. True evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (Romans 12:17-21), but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.”

The judge goes on to quote more Scripture in her decision, calling for the mother and son to reconcile with the father. Volokh calls the decision a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, and if you read the full decision, the judge’s spiritual lecturing of the mother seems wildly inappropriate.

Culture I am consuming: 

How to Think by Alan Jacobs. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at