Queens lawmakers vow to continue fighting for reproductive rights as Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, banning abortion rights

Supreme Court Roe v. Wade fighting for abortion in Queens
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

While the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, June 24, officially reversed Roe v. Wade, ending constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years, Queens lawmakers say New York will remain a safe haven for anyone seeking an abortion. 

The 6-3 historic ruling comes more than a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Conservative Justice Samuel Alito showed that the court planned to overturn the landmark 1973 decision after ruling on a Mississippi case that bans abortions after 15 weeks.

“It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting,” Alito wrote for the majority opinion. 

Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan delivered their dissenting opinion, saying, “One result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.” 

Following the ruling, Governor Kathy Hochul reminded New Yorkers that abortion remains “safe, accessible and legal in New York.” 

“Today, the Supreme Court took away the right of millions of Americans to make decisions about their own bodies. This decision is a grave injustice,” Hochul said. “Just last month, in anticipation of this decision, I made an historic $35 million investment to support our state’s network of abortion providers. Last week, thanks to the partnership of Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie, I signed a landmark, nation-leading package of legislation that further protects the rights of patients and empowers reproductive healthcare providers.”

“The right to reproductive healthcare is a fundamental human right. History shows us that when abortion is banned, abortion becomes unsafe for women. Low-income individuals and people of color will be harmed the most,” Hochul added. “New York has always been a beacon for those yearning to be free. Our state will always be a safe harbor for those seeking access to abortion care. To anyone who is working to deny abortion access, our message is clear: not here, not now, not ever.” 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards noted the importance of not only expanding access to abortion services for New Yorkers but to better support abortion care providers and make the state a “true sanctuary for those from outside our borders seeking a procedure.” 

“Today, the court has written another dystopian chapter in our nation’s history by ripping away the fundamental right to body autonomy for all Americans with the ability to become pregnant — an evil and hateful decision that will forever be viewed through the prisms of shame and scorn,” Richards said. “The United States is a darker and more dangerous nation this morning, as millions of people across this country — especially LGBTQIA+ Americans, people of color and lower-income individuals — will be forced to either risk their lives to seek unsafe abortions or carry an unwanted or unviable pregnancy to term. Decades of progress and countless lives will be lost because of this decision, while the futures of millions more will be forever altered, but Queens will not let such a racist and sexist step backward in our fight for justice deter us.” 

Richards is also demanding that the protections provided through Roe v. Wade for 49 years be immediately codified into federal law, no matter what. 

“Under no circumstance will Queens and the hundreds of millions of Americans who believe in body autonomy stay silent — it’s time to organize and mobilize like never before,” Richards said. 

In May, Richards, along with reproductive justice leaders and gender equity advocates rallied for women’s reproductive rights on the steps of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. One of the speakers, Merle Hoffman, president and founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, had urged women to speak up and fight for their rights as Roe v. Wade was in jeopardy of being overturned. 

In light of the court’s ruling that has become a reality, Hoffman is demanding an immediate federal intervention in whatever way possible to insure the safety of all citizens seeking abortions.

“I am ready, but like the death of my mother I was prepared, but how are you ever prepared for an illegitimate Supreme Court that rips away fundamental human and civil rights from half of this country’s population? How can you ever be ready for that?” Hoffman said. “Now in this pivotal moment, how we act, who we are will determine the futures of our daughters and our granddaughters for generations to come.” 

Hoffman added that they refuse to accept the court’s “illegitimate decision” and a society where they are forced to build “safe havens” and fund their own oppression by paying for women to travel for their own lives.

“As long as one woman, one child, one person is not safe, none of us are safe,” Hoffman said. 

When Hochul pledged funding last month to support abortion providers in anticipation of the court overturning Roe v. Wade, Hoffman says they welcome it, but recognizes that much more is needed and that the decision must not stand.  

Meanwhile, Queens lawmakers say the court’s ruling is a direct threat to women’s lives and their right to choose. 

Congresswoman Grace Meng said the court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade is “outrageous, unacceptable and unconscionable.” 

“It’s an all-out assault on reproductive freedom. We must make sure our voices of disapproval and disgust continue to be heard. Over the past few weeks, we have seen millions across the nation express their opposition to this life-altering ruling,” Meng said. “People have gathered to protest in front of the Supreme Court, and have made their voices heard online and in their local communities. We have made so much progress in the 49 years since the historic ruling was issued but this awful decision kicks it all to the curb. I’m pleased that my home state of New York has enacted protections for those in need of reproductive care and I call on other states to follow suit. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, our efforts cannot end here. We must continue fighting for reproductive rights for all. Making decisions about our bodies is a human right!”

Outraged by the court’s decision, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney wrote on Twitter that she will be marching to the Supreme Court to protest the ruling. 

“I want to be very clear — Republicans’ overturning of Roe is not about protecting public health or safety, it is about taking away our right to bodily autonomy,” Maloney said. “This disgraceful decision will eliminate access to abortion care for millions of people in the United States and will disproportionately harm communities that are already marginalized and more likely to experience health disparities, including people of color and people with less income.” 

According to Maloney, today’s decision undermines decades of precedent protecting fundamental freedoms for all people living in the U.S. and is a direct threat to other essential rights based on a person’s right to privacy, including the right to contraception and the right to same-sex marriage.

“It will be recorded as one of the most misguided, ideologically driven and deeply flawed decisions in our country’s history,” Maloney said.  “I launched my first campaign for Congress the day Planned Parenthood v. Casey was decided and have dedicated my career to championing women’s rights and protecting and expanding access to abortion and the full range of reproductive health care. I vow to keep fighting for these fundamental rights, and will use my gavel as chairwoman of the Oversight Committee to take on this decision and its implications for our country.”

In a tweet, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic called the court’s decision a “gut punch” ending the week, especially for women in the country. Rozic said that New York will continue “fighting like hell against this backward decision.” 

Senator Jessica Ramos said the court’s two rulings challenge the ability to keep people safe.

“Our safety — our personal health decisions, our ability to stay safe from gun violence — cannot be left to a politicized court. We’re going to mourn, and then fight,” Ramos tweeted.

Councilwoman Sandra Ung said she will work with her colleagues at all levels of government to ensure that New York state leads the nation in protecting a woman’s right to choose. 

“This decision won’t stop women from having an abortion, it will only force them to seek out more dangerous and possibly life-threatening options. We can’t let a small group of unelected activist judges decide what choices women can and can’t make about their own health,” Ung said. 

Senator James Sanders Jr. is urging the public to vote and elect people that support policies that are in their best interests. 

“We have become comfortable with our freedoms and we think they are never going to be taken away, but as the saying goes, ‘The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,’” Sanders said. 

The senator added that the court ruling will create a proliferation of pro-choice people crossing state lines to have the procedure done where it is legal and available. However, Sanders says, some states may criminalize out-of-state travel to receive an abortion. 

“Is this what it has come to, turning women into criminals or having them seek unsafe, backdoor, black market abortion procedures that could threaten their health. I support abortion as a last resort, not a first option. Birth control, including the most effective — abstinence — should be the first choice,” Sanders said. 

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said they must continue to ensure that New York remains a safe haven for women. 

“Yesterday, our conservative Supreme Court turned a blind eye to mass shootings like the one we experienced in Buffalo by making it easy to carry a concealed weapon,” Stavisky said. “Today they set the women’s rights movement back decades. I have been, and always will be an advocate for women’s reproductive rights and I will continue to fight for a woman’s right to have autonomy over her own body.”