‘It’s a blow to democracy:’ Brooklyn reacts to leaked Supreme Court opinion on abortion

people protest outside supreme court after abortion decision
Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

An unprecedented leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court has revealed that the body is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion without excessive government interference. The decision, published by Politico and confirmed by the Court to be authentic but not final, would allow individual states to establish their own abortion regulation — and many of those states plan to ban all or most abortions as soon as the final decision comes down.

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. 

With abortion rights codified and Democrats holding a comfortable majority in government, New York State and City have seen more and more women traveling from out-of-state to get abortions, and, in 2019, gave $250,000 to the New York Abortion Access Fund to assist people who cannot afford abortions access the care they need, including those from other states. 

After the opinion was leaked on Monday evening, Brooklynites and local politicians spoke up to denounce the Court’s plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, and vowed to keep abortion legal and accessible for New Yorkers.

“The Supreme Court majority decision draft is confirmation of our worst fears come true,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. “This will reverse all of the progress of the last five decades on abortion rights. The threat the decision poses is not just an attack on women’s rights: it’s a blow to democracy.”

“We must play offensively,” Bichotte continued. “We must unite to ensure every person and family can access safe and affordable abortion. We support the codification of Roe v. Wade and remind all Brooklynites that abortion remains legal.”

Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest, who represents Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and parts of Bed-Stuy, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights, also voiced her support for reproductive rights.

“Abortion is healthcare, no matter what the Supreme Court says,” Souffrant-Forrest, a former nurse, said on Twitter. “We can’t go back to a time where poor women die from unsafe abortions.”

As hundreds of New Yorkers and their elected representatives from city and state government prepared for a rally against the overturn in Manhattan’s Foley Square on Tuesday evening, some of Brooklyn’s federal elected officials pledged to take action in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said on Twitter that the Senate would hold a vote to codify the protections Roe v. Wade provided into federal law, though the Brooklyn native did not seem convinced that such a measure would pass.

“We will vote on protecting a women’s right to choose, and every American is going to see which side every senator stands on,” Schumer said.

Joy D. Calloway, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, called the decision a “roadmap” for dismantling access to safe abortions.

people outside supreme court after abortion decision
A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court early Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Washington. A draft opinion suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. The right to have an abortion is codified in New York State law, but New Yorkers and elected officials say they want to “act offensively.” AP Photo/Alex Brandon

“Abortion bans are designed to deny Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous people their right to control their bodies and futures,” Calloway said, in a statement. “These bans disproportionally harm people with low incomes who cannot afford access to fundamental health care or travel to get it.”

Her sentiment was shared by Brooklyn Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, who took to Twitter to call the leaked opinion 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 on Twitter.

North Brooklyn councilmember Lincoln Restler called the decision “a gut punch,” and said he would be participating in rallies, including the Foley Square gathering on Tuesday.

“We will do whatever we can do to protect access to safe and legal abortions,” Restler wrote in an email newsletter on Tuesday morning.