Meet the Rivertowns for Reproductive Rights Team

By Christy Knell
August 28, 2023

On Thursday, September 21, we are fortunate to host a huge, amazing dance party fundraiser here at HudCo for the Rivertowns for Reproductive Rights organization, run by a group of amazing local women focused on “joyfully organizing for reproductive rights and justice.” This party promises to be a night to remember, a full dance floor of people who want to help those in need of abortion access through the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF).

Who are these generous, passionate organizers who like to party so much while raising so much money for reproductive rights? Saints, yes. But they are also your neighbors, likely people you’ve seen around town or perhaps purchased cheese from. Let’s find out more from R4RR founder Leslie Seery and volunteers Jessica Bloom Galen and  Kirsten “Kiko” Bourne.

This is quite a time we live in, where we have to backtrack and organize to support a woman’s right to control her own body, something we really shouldn’t have to do again. Thank you for investing your time and energy into this work! How did you each come to being involved with the Rivertowns for Reproductive Rights group?

Leslie: Early last summer, I decided that I had to take action in the face of these onslaughts, starting when Roe was overturned. I knew I needed to find something that would bring me a sense of purpose and also actually make a difference, even though we’re in New York. But our fates are all connected, and as rights started being stripped away elsewhere, the demand for abortion care here in New York has skyrocketed. That was the inspiration for Rivertowns for Reproductive Rights. We could raise money and engage in activism locally, bring in the community and give folks an outlet for their grief and desire to act, and have a real impact in New York and beyond. With a handful of badass women, we planned Rock for Choice at the Good Witch Coffee Bar, which raised $25,000. Our team has grown to 30 women. I am continuously amazed by what a smart, dynamic, and motivated group this has become. I truly find joy in every one of our meetings or events.

Jessica: I think I made it to the second meeting, and never looked back. It was immediately clear that Leslie had launched something truly incredible. I’ve never seen an all-volunteer undertaking mobilize this quickly and effectively. It has also been key to find a partner in the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF), the only statewide abortion fund here and the recipient of all of our fundraising to date. They have seen an unfathomable increase in demand to support those seeking abortion care in New York from other states.

Kiko: As a new resident of the Rivertowns–I moved to Sleepy Hollow in 2022–I have been energized by the way this effort truly spans from down in Hastings-on-Hudson up through Ossining. Business owners are banging on the door to donate auction items, and committee members are flocking from each Rivertown to get their hands into the effort!

Photographs of Rock for Choice by Luis Ruiz

Tell us all about the success you’ve had thus far, the response from the Rivertowns and beyond.

Leslie: We have raised nearly $35,000 for NYAAF so far between last year’s Rock for Choice and our Appetizers for Access event this past spring. We are hoping to double that number at Dance for Choice, and I think we will. Last summer I was nervous about how we would pull off a big event given we are a grassroots group with no funds of our own. The community showed up and made it happen with their generosity.

Are there any stories that you could share since this has begun about why this is so important to your supporters, or yourselves?

Leslie: This summer we had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Bianca Stifani, who is an OBGYN and fellowship trained family planning doctor, who met with our group to share her experience and answer our questions about the medical (not political) side of women’s reproductive health. It was a rare opportunity for us to gather and learn in-depth about the topic we all care so much about so that we can be better equipped to advocate for it. Her stories drove home how important our fundraising work is and what sort of support the women and front-line workers need. We will be honoring Dr. Stifani at Dance for Choice on 9/21.

Jessica: Even within our generally pro-choice community, there is still some reticence to normalize discussions of abortion care and our personal experiences with accessing reproductive healthcare. Since Rivertowns for Reproductive Rights launched, I think we have been able to create more spaces and context to normalize talking about abortion care and how desperately we need these rights. It’s also given so many in our community a way to have a tangible impact when so much feels hopeless.

If we didn’t have to waste our time going back and fighting to keep rights we already had, what would you want to focus on to make the world a better place?

Leslie: I would focus on the climate crisis, which is also another overwhelming problem to address. I have an education background, so I will also continue my work with children, because raising responsible kids ultimately has the biggest impact.
Jessica: As a Trustee in Dobbs Ferry, I’m focused on the day-to-day improvements we can make that support accessibility, equality and quality of life for our community. Holding this work in balance with the more national-level advocacy around reproductive justice keeps me inspired, even if we should be at a point of pushing things forward, not making up all of this lost ground.
Kiko: Ditto to what Leslie said–we have so much work to do on environmental initiatives locally throughout the Rivertowns, as well as of course nationally. I would also add gun safety to the mix as an issue that’s top of mind for me as a parent (and just a citizen).

And in all seriousness, what is the number one song that makes you scream on the dance floor? (Because we need to hear that song and lose our minds on September 21!)
Leslie: “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes
Jessica: “Just a Girl” by No Doubt