November 27, 2021

Cortland vigil laments loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jacobus Center

Kevin L. Smith/staff reporter

Carol Van Derr Karr, president of the YWCA board of directors, speaks before 50 people Thursday at a vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and to call attention to the closing the Jacobus Center for Reproductive Health.

Carol Van Der Karr called for a show of hands Thursday at a vigil in downtown Cortland: How many people felt anger, frustration and fear at both the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the pending closure of the Jacobus Center for Reproductive Health?

Fifty hands went up — everyone in the crowd, as Cortland County legislators met across the street from the vigil at Courthouse Park for an update on the quick decision to close the clinic after 48 years.

“My hope is that we can channel that energy into collaborative strategies that identify these inequities and pain for women in our community,” said Van Der Karr, president of the board of directors of the YWCA and one of several speakers at the vigil.

Lisa Hoeschele, who organized the event, said she purposely held the event on the Central Avenue side of Courthouse Park while county legislators were meeting.

“They need to hear and to know what we value and how important a place like the Jacobus Center means to all of us,” she said. “Do what RBG would do — let them hear what you have to say.”

The announcement of the Jacobus Center was astonishing for Andrea Rankin, one of the speakers, who once worked at the clinic in the county office building.

“No one warned the staff, the director of the health department or even the public,” she said. “We were a family. We cared for everybody’s right to receive reproductive health with dignity and respect.”

Van Der Karr started to make the connection between Ginsburg and the Jacobus Center while watching a documentary on justice a couple of nights ago.

“True equity for women must include access to reproductive services and include women making choices about her own health and her own body,” she said.

“RBG had the ability to take in what the perspectives were for women and others and work with those perspectives by advancing the agenda she had,” Van Der Karr said. “The Jacobus Center has brought more well-being and commitment to women, and contributed to a more just community for women.”

Samantha Adams, project coordinator for the LGBTQ resource center in Cortland, said with the passing of Ginsburg “the fundamental rights, the ability to live open and authentic lives for LGBTQ people are now at risk.”

Adams added that Ginsburg fought for rights for the LGBTQ community, including the push for legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.

“The passing of RBG should be a wakeup call for all of us,” she said. “The rights of so many people rested on her shoulders. She shouldn’t have had to bear with that all alone. May her memory be a revolution for the future.”