Queens politicians and local advocates for women’s health care and reproductive rights are speaking out against the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion to strike down Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that federally guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion services.
The leaked draft of the upcoming Supreme Court’s opinion was first reported by Politico. The drafted opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, shows that the court plans to overturn the 50-year precedent after deciding on a Mississippi case that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Based on the leaked documents, Republican-appointed Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are expected to be in the majority along with Alito.
“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences,” Alito wrote in the document. “And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
The ruling was drafted in February and it’s likely that a final ruling will be made public within the next two months, Politico reported. The court’s opinion would end federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion.
At least 22 states have laws on the books that would come into effect if Roe v. Wade is officially overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the U.S. A total of 13 states have passed laws banning or restricting abortions since the Supreme Court decision in 1973.
As millions of women in the U.S. may lose their legal right to an abortion, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said the “heartless cruelty” of the Supreme Court’s draft ruling is “equal parts vicious, hateful, sexist, racist and anti-American.”
“After years of Republican-led efforts to callously limit abortion services in direct violation of Roe v. Wade in states like Texas and Mississippi, tens of millions of people who seek the simple, yet fundamental human right to body autonomy will soon see their own reproductive systems under government control,” Richards said. “Tonight, I’m thinking of the millions of lower-income communities and communities of color who have historically lacked equitable abortion access and will be hit the hardest by this potential ruling.”
Richards added, “I’m thinking about the reproductive health advocates who have sounded the alarm about the possibility of this day, and the consequences of making what is often a necessary medical procedure inaccessible and dangerous, only to be scoffed at. For their rights and the rights of all those who believe that what happens with our bodies is our choice and our choice alone, this fight will continue.”
Richards is advocating for city and state leaders to further ensure equitable abortion access within New York state. He also urges the Biden administration and Congress to immediately move to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade affords into federal law.
Some lawmakers took to Twitter to express their concerns on the court’s potential ruling.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said for the last 50 years, the U.S. had led the way in protecting a woman’s right to choose.
“We cannot stand idly by while our nation goes backwards. I’ve fought to preserve reproductive rights my entire career and will continue to ensure those rights are protected in Queens,” Katz wrote on Twitter.
For the last 50 years, the U.S. has led the way in protecting a woman’s right to choose. We cannot stand idly by while our nation goes backwards. I've fought to preserve reproductive rights my entire career and will continue to ensure those rights are protected in Queens. #SCOTUS
— Melinda Katz (@MelindaKatz) May 3, 2022
Councilwoman Linda Lee said, “Women across the United States will bear the consequences, some with their lives. We must do everything within our power to codify Roe v. Wade now because we cannot go back.”
The implications of this report are unthinkable. Women across the United States will bear the consequences, some with their lives. We must do everything within our power to codify #RoeVWade now, because we cannot go back. https://t.co/KtBixGqYip
— Council Member Linda Lee (@CMLindaLee) May 3, 2022
In a statement, Councilwoman Sandra Ung said that the decision by the Supreme Court won’t stop women from having abortions, but it will force them to seek out dangerous and potentially deadly alternatives, which will almost certainly have a greater impact on low-income women of color.
“It is time for the United States to make access to a safe and legal abortion the law of the land, not a right left in the hands of nine unelected individuals,” Ung said.
According to Senator Leroy Comrie, the prospect that the Supreme Court may be overturning both Roe and Casey is an “atrocity and a profound violation of precedent settled constitutional law.”
“Over 50 years ago the court acted on behalf of the rights of millions of women, that they would be respected and protected by the highest court in the land. The idea that women’s right to choose would be dismissed, including for survivors of rape and incest, is also an atrocity bespeaking a disconnect with women, with survivors, and a disconnect with the autonomy everyone in our country deserves,” Comrie said.
— Leroy Comrie (@LeroyComrie) May 3, 2022
Senator Toby Stavisky said the draft opinion is another troubling example of the effects of partisan extremism.
“I was proud to support and pass the codification of Roe v. Wade into state law in 2019, but sadly, there are many women across the country who will not have the same protections afforded to us here in New York. It’s a travesty that a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions can be destroyed by a group of Republicans in Washington,” Stavisky said.
State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi reiterated that New York will always protect a woman’s right to abortion and all reproductive rights.
“The rest of our country must as well. Leadership at the highest levels of government must make it happen now,” Hevesi wrote.
New York will always protect a woman’s right to abortion and all #reproductiverights. The rest of our country must as well. Leadership at the highest levels of government must make it happen now.
— Andrew Hevesi (@AndrewHevesi) May 3, 2022
On the local level, organizations such as South Queens Women’s March (SQWM) in Richmond Hill, which fosters women empowerment, have been outspoken advocates on the matter.
In October of 2021, SQWM rallied against the Texas law that banned most abortions in the state. According to Aminta Kilawan-Narine, founder of SQWM, there has never been a more critical time for people to show up in support of women’s health care, rights and freedoms.
“We knew we had to raise our voices to defend and protect our rights under Roe v. Wade. We are regressing as a society. This current reality feels like something one might only see on a dystopian television show. As a gender justice organization, the draft majority opinion leaked by Politico last night has rattled us to our core,” Kilawan-Narine said. “Politicians should absolutely not be the ones tasked with determining what we do with our bodies.”
According to Tannuja Rozario, a founding board member of SQWM, Roe v. Wade is the floor of reproductive rights in the United States that ensures rights to bodily autonomy, family planning and access to safe abortions.
“In 2021 alone, 108 abortion restrictions were enacted. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, 26 states are likely to ban abortions. These bans are not medically necessary,” Rozario said. “Instead, these bans remove the very floor that those who are working to make ends meet, BIPOC communities, immigrants, queers, trans and nonbinary stand on to obtain safe and necessary medical care. These communities who are already experiencing systemic barriers will still seek abortion in unsafe ways — the consequence is how many will die from it. Removing this floor is a direct attack against these communities.”
Nirmala Singh, another founding board member of SQWM said the news is devastating, but not shocking as the attacks and restrictions on women’s bodies have been sewn into the DNA of the country.
“Access to safe abortions protects our dignity and human right to access safe health care. While this isn’t the final decision, it’s hard to not imagine if Roe is struck down, other ‘set in stone’ Supreme Court decisions that have safeguarded the rights of people across America could also now be reversed,” Singh said.