Brooklyn legislators vow to fight ‘runaway, radical, right wing’ Roe v. Wade ruling

march for abortion at brooklyn bridge
Around 10,000 people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to support legal abortion, one week after a leaked opinion from the Supreme Court revealed that the court was likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

The Supreme Court on Friday struck down a slate of constitutional protections for abortion, in place for nearly 50 years, in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade.

New York legalized abortion in 1970, before the case came before the Court, and codified Roe’s protections into state law in 2019 with the Reproductive Health Act, ensuring abortion would remain legal even if the decision was overturned. The law also legalized abortion past 24 weeks of pregnancy if the mother’s health was in jeopardy, and allows “advanced practice clinicians,” like nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, to perform abortions.

The Court voted 6-3 to strike down the landmark 1973 decision as well as the 1992 follow-up Planned Parenthood v. Casey, with all of the conservative justices joining the majority. Justice Samuel Alito, the author of the majority opinion, said the original Roe decision was “egregiously wrong” and compared it to the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine underpinning Jim Crow.

“Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson,” Alito wrote, “Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”

Local legislators, advocacy groups and organizations that aid with abortion access were quick to condemn the outcome, which is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

“Today is one of the darkest days our country has ever seen,” tweeted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “American women are having their rights taken by 5 (sic) unelected Justices on the extremist MAGA court. These justices — appointed by Republicans and presiding without accountability — have stolen the fundamental right to abortion.”

people outside supreme court after abortion decision
A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court early Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

“The decision by the runaway, radical, right wing Supreme Court majority to take away the long-held right to have an abortion is an assault on freedom, the Constitution and the values shared by a majority of Americans,” said US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries in a statement. “The callous detonation of Roe v. Wade by six unelected Judges is part of an extreme Republican plan to criminalize abortion and wipe out access to contraception nationwide. It is extreme to eliminate abortion access everywhere. It is extreme to impose government-mandated pregnancies and get between a decision that should be made by a woman and her doctor. It is extreme to force the views of a radical minority on the vast majority of Americans who cherish freedom. It is extreme to unleash bounty hunters on the women of America.”

House Democrats, Jeffries said, have long acted to protect people’s access to reproductive health care. Now, he’s urging New Yorkers to bring any frustrations they may have about the Supreme Court’s recent rulings to the ballot box.

“In the days and weeks that follow, we will organize the supporters of freedom like never before seen on this deeply personal issue,” he said. “Vote like your life depends on it because the quality of life for millions of Americans hangs in the balance. The battle lines have been drawn. We will never surrender.”

Rep. Nydia Velázquez shared similar sentiments.

“Even though we knew this was likely coming, it’s no less shocking,” she tweeted. “This is a dangerous plot to deny women the ability to control their own bodies and lives. This is not the end.”

She previously took to Twitter to call the opinion, at the time leaked by Politico, dangerous to “low-income communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and communities of color.”

“Reproductive care is health care, and we will fight to protect it,” Velázquez said.

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, called the decision a “devastating blow to the rights of women to govern their own bodies and their reproductive health” that reverses half-a-century of “settled law.”

“It certainly underscores that elections matter — it was Donald Trump who appointed the three right wing judges who enabled the anti-woman majority to cancel a woman’s right to choose,” she went on. “As a woman, as a legislator, as a party leader, and a champion for maternal health and safe abortions, I know this is a fight we cannot give up on. The lives of women across the country, especially those who are poor and of color, are at stake as we will witness the increase of maternal mortality and morbidity because of the decisions of a handful of right wing biased judges. We will fight them on the streets and at the ballot box for the rights of women and all Americans.”

But not all condemned the decision.

Southern Brooklyn Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, the city’s lone congressional Republican, expressed disdain not in the Supreme Court’s decision, but in its nonimpact in New York.

“Sadly New York’s radical late-term abortion law will be unaffected by this decision,” the pol said in a statement. “Like an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers, I oppose New York’s law allowing abortions up until birth, non-doctors to perform them, and removal of the homicide penalty from the penal code in the event that a woman is assaulted and loses her unborn baby as a result.”

Malliotakis’ Council counterpart, southern Brooklyn Councilmember Inna Vernikov (the only Republican member of the Council), did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on Thursday was one of the city’s few elected officials to publicaly laud the Supreme Court’s decision to nullify New York’s strict laws regarding the concealed carry of firearms.

barclays rally after supreme court roe v. wade leak
Hundreds attend a rally at the Barclays Center on May 3, 2022 after a leaked opinion suggested the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Pro-choice New Yorkers are set to take to the streets Friday night in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Following the Politico leak in May, thousands of protesters descended on the Barclays Center and Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s Park Slope home.

“It’s important that we use our voices and yell out when things are going wrong,” said Michelle Smoler, a public policy grad student at NYU who lives in Crown Heights, at the May 3 rally. “You can’t just stand by and allow people’s rights to be wholesale swept away. We have to stand up for those people, even if our institutions are so disconnected from the people who they’re supposed to be representing.”

In a statement, Planned Parenthood — a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care across the country — vowed to “never stop fighting” for abortion access.

“We know you may be feeling a lot of things right now — hurt, anger, confusion,” the organization tweeted. “Whatever you feel is OK. We’re here with you — and we’ll never stop fighting for you.”

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York will host a virtual press conference Friday afternoon, during which organizers say they will outline the group’s plans to expand and enhance abortion services.

The head of Brooklyn Community Foundation, a local charity-based organization focused on social change, called the ruling “discriminatory,” “embarassing,” and “outrageous.”

“It isn’t just a setback for a just and equitable society, it punishes people and families with fewer means,” said Dr. Jocelynne Rainey, president and CEO of Brooklyn Community Foundation, in a statement. “This ruling will disproportionately impact communities of color and it is nothing short of embarrassing and outrageous for our nation to roll back the human right to self-determination and bodily autonomy.”

“I’m heartened to live and work in New York, a state that has taken the right steps to protect legal access to abortion for people who can get pregnant thanks to the leadership of Governor [Kathy] Hochul and the state legislature,” Rainey went on. “But, our neighbors in other states, whose leaders don’t value all lives the way they claim to, will be made to pay a steep price for this ruling. And so will society.”

Additional reporting by Ben Brachfeld, Kirstyn Brendlen and Stephen Witt