Several hundred people gathered in Union Square last night to protest President Donald Trump's second nomination for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and to urge the New York State legislature to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade at the state level. Brandishing a wire hanger to symbolize the brutal consequences of criminalizing abortion, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon told the crowd, "We must fight like hell in New York and across the country to preserve Roe v. Wade so that no woman will ever feel compelled to use something like this on herself again."
A wire hanger is something that women in this country were driven to use out of fear and desperation, performing abortions on themselves, often with devastating effects. We must never go back to a time when any women feels that she has to make this kind of a choice. #OneInFour pic.twitter.com/wu1qQ85elj
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) July 11, 2018
I just heard @CynthiaNixon at a rally for Roe, talking about her mother’s illegal abortion. I’ve never heard a candidate speak so frankly before about what abortion rights really mean in our lives, in our families.
— Moira Donegan (@MoiraDonegan) July 10, 2018
Pro-choice advocates fear that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have a conservative majority that will overturn Roe V. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that ruled criminalizing abortion unconstitutional. To prepare for that possibility, advocates have been urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to call a special legislative session to pass a bill that would enshrine abortion rights at the state level in New York. On Monday, Cuomo urged the legislature to return to Albany, but stopped short of ordering a special session.
New York's current law legalizing abortion, passed in 1970, does not adequately protect providers who perform abortions after 24 weeks. The current bill, called the Reproductive Health Act, would change that and remove abortion from New York's penal code, making it a completely lawful medical procedure. The bill has overwhelming support in the state Assembly, but has languished in the Senate due to Republican's razor-thin majority.
Cuomo's critics say he has dragged his feet on the issue for years, failing to exert sufficient pressure on Republicans to get the legislation passed. Still, Planned Parenthood announced its endorsement of the governor and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul today.
"Every year for eight years, Andrew Cuomo has claimed to be a champion of reproductive freedom. Every year for eight years, he’s failed to deliver," Karen Scharff, a leader of New York Working Families Party, told the NY Times. "Why? Because it was more important to keep Republicans in power and keep taxes on his wealthy donors low than it was to protect our rights."
Holding signs with slogans like "Keep your laws off my body," protesters in Union Square endured 93 degree heat to jeer Cuomo and cheer on a series of speakers, including four female Democratic challengers for state Senate: Alessandra Biaggi (NY-34), Julie Goldberg (NY-38), Rachel May (NY-53), Jessica Ramos (NY-13), and Jasi Robinson (NY-23). The state and local primary election is September 13th.
“I was sexually assaulted and if I had become pregnant and had to carry that pregnancy to term it would have killed me," said Mitali Desi, a 20-year-old attendee from Morningside Heights. "It would have absolutely destroyed me. And I’m lucky because I come from a family that has money—I would have had options—but a lot of women don’t. A lot of women are in impossible situations either because of sexual assault, because of domestic violence, because of an economy that is so discriminatory against women of color, against immigrant women."
"Didn’t matter about the heat," said Aly Palmer, a 50-year-old, Lower East Side resident. "Didn’t matter about the sweat. Now is the time for women to be standing up for each other that is why I’m here."
Reporting by Katherine Hernandez.