People gathered at West Capitol Park in Albany to rally for women’s reproductive rights following the leak of a draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that delineates the court’s majority decision to overturn the landmark case surrounding abortion rights.
“This leak makes it clear that our deepest fears, what we’ve been worried about for quite some time now is coming true – that the court is prepared to end the Constitutional right to abortion and that’s going to be an outcome that’s both dangerous and unprecedented,” said Georgana Hanson, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, the statewide legislative advocacy group for Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Although the case has not been overturned, if it is, 26 states would be ready to make abortion illegal, with 13 of those states already having laws at the ready, Hanson said.
The move would leave more than 36 million women and other people who can become pregnant without access to abortion services, said Joy D. Calloway, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York in a press release, which the Schenectady location falls under.
“This is not simply a draft of a devastating and politically motivated Supreme Court opinion, it is a roadmap for dismantling our fundamental right to safe, legal abortion, a right codified nearly fifty years ago,” she said in a statement. “Abortion bans are designed to deny Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous people their right to control their bodies and futures. These bans disproportionally harm people with low incomes who cannot afford access to fundamental health care or travel to get it. Abortion bans are the perpetuation of racism, sexism, and economic injustice in a country that has a long history of stripping people of their own personal autonomy.”
In 2019 New York codified the protections in Roe v. Wade when officials passed the Reproductive Health Act, according to the release from Planned Parenthood.
Many women are grateful the state enacted such measures, said Lynell Engelmyer, a co-founder of Progressive Schenectady, which is an activist group that was created following the 2016 election.
But, she said there is also “deep, deep sadness” for many women today.
“We are deeply disappointed with this news, though personally I’m not terribly surprised given the makeup of the court,” Engelmyer said.
While Engelmyer noted that abortions are allowed in New York the issue hits home in another way, since many residents in Schenectady County are currently trying to maintain abortion services as part of the Ellis Medicine merger with St. Peter’s Health Partners.
St. Peter’s Health is part of Michigan-based Trinity Health, which like other Catholic health care organizations conforms to the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The sixth edition contains 77 specific directives, 11 of which methodically lay out the requirements for non-Catholic institutions to follow church doctrine upon absorption by a Catholic institution.
Other directives forbid surrogate pregnancy, use of donated eggs or sperm, abortion, prenatal diagnosis for purposes of terminating a defective fetus, male or female sterilization, anything resembling abortion of an ectopic pregnancy and promotion of artificial contraception.
Ellis Medicine says roughly 50 abortions are performed each year at Bellevue Woman’s Center, the small OB/GYN hospital it operates in Niskayuna, and has confirmed that the procedures would be halted if Ellis merges with SPHP.
“Despite the fact that we live in New York and we have access to these things statewide the availability of it in our community is precarious,’ Engelmyer said.
The Schenectady Coalition for Healthcare Access has been pushing for transparency regarding the merger and that all services now provided at the hospital continue under the merger. The leaked draft opinion only frustrates matters, said Arthur Butler, coalition leader. He said ending services doesn’t mean the needs of the community are any less. He said the coalition is going to continue to fight for access to services.
Hansen said not only does there need to be support for reproductive rights, but there needs to be funding to support the access to it. If Roe v. Wade is overturned it would mean an exponential increase in women seeking abortion in New York.
New York would be the closest state for abortion services for anywhere from upward of 190,000 to 230,000 people, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, Hanson said. The institute is a research and policy organization that focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights, according to its website.
“That is something that providers have been preparing for and that we’re going to be working with our supportive policy makers to advance not just laws but funding that invests in providers to meet the need that’s present today and to increase capacity to meet the need that’s going to be growing as we see these states ban access to care,” she said.
Hanson said Planned Parenthood will not be backing down in its fight for reproductive rights.
“This won’t stop us,” she said.
Majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday he will look to codify Roe v. Wade into law.
While some reacted to the news in the draft opinion other officials focused on the leak itself.
“The leaking of an internal draft opinion of the Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade is troubling,” states a press release from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. “As we continue to pray fervently for legal protections for unborn children, we cannot comment on the contents of a draft document. The Supreme Court’s final action remains to be seen. We will have more to say when the final opinion is released.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, put out a letter with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Whip Steve Scalise that called for an investigation into the leak.
“House Republicans are committed to upholding the sanctity of life, and we will continue to fight to be a voice for the truly voiceless,” the letter states. “There is nothing more special, extraordinary, and worth fighting for than the miracle of life.”
Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at SB_DailyGazette.