By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney joined other local elected officials and pro-choice advocates on Tuesday to oppose the nomination of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The politicians and advocates gathered in Foley Square across from the New York State Supreme Court and the focus of the rally was the possibility that Roe vs. Wade could be overturned when a new justice is confirmed, which drew two counter-protesters responding to advocates’ call to keep abortion legal.
The small but vocal group didn’t noticeably identify with any particular group but the pair, a man and woman, delayed the start of Maloney’s rally with calls of “Keep abortion legal? No!” and “Put them up for adoption!”
The protesters also made it clear that they vehemently dislike President Trump, although they agree with him on this point. Anti-choice group Created Equal had sent out a call to lobby senators to confirm Kavanaugh at rallies to be held in Washington next week, although the protesters at Maloney’s rally did not specify if they affiliated with that or any other group.
The advocates in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade argued that there shouldn’t be a hearing for a new nominee so close to an election with the midterms coming up in November, just as Senator Mitch McConnell argued in 2016 when President Barack Obama attempted to nominate Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia.
“People will say (Kavanaugh) believes in court precedent,” said Heidi Sieck, co-founder and CEO of VoteProChoice. “But everything about this administration is unprecedented. Do you know what’s precedence? It’s blocking a Supreme Court nomination.”
Maloney also argued that the Supreme Court should respect precedent regardless.
“A vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice is a vote to destroy Roe v. Wade, women’s freedoms, families’ affordable healthcare, LGBT rights, labor unions, the list goes on and on,” Maloney said. “We will not allow the President to use the Supreme Court to drive our country backwards and set progress back decades. If Merrick Garland could not be given a confirmation hearing because of the 2016 election, Brett Kavanaugh must be held to the same standard now that the midterm elections are fast approaching.”
Sieck added that although Kavanaugh hasn’t explicitly stated his views on abortion, his stance could be seen in a recent decision that he wrote denying an abortion to a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant that denied her an abortion while she was in federal custody.
Local elected officials expressed specific concern about the possibility of Roe vs. Wade getting overturned because abortion is not a protected right in New York State.
“(President Trump) wants to punish women for having abortions and if that happens, it goes back to the state,” said Danielle Castaldi-Micca, the director of political and government affairs at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “New York has failed to remove abortion from the penal code. We need to put pressure on Albany to pass the Reproductive Health Act.”
Assembly Member Harvey Epstein agreed, also noting that the obstruction of Garland’s confirmation was because of politics but argued that a hearing for Kavanaugh should be postponed until the Mueller investigation is complete.
“We need to hold off until the investigation of President Trump has ended,” he said. “This is a man who has violated laws and lied to the American people.”
Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon also held a rally on Tuesday evening about protecting abortion rights in the wake of Kennedy’s retirement, specifically calling out Governor Andrew Cuomo for failing to adequately protect reproductive rights in New York.
Sieck was scheduled to attend Nixon’s Union Square rally as well, in addition to State Senate Democratic candidates and pro-choice activists, and prior to the protest, Nixon released a video about Cuomo’s record on reproductive rights, criticizing the governor for allowing the Independent Democratic Conference to block legislation that protects women.
“For years, Cuomo has had every opportunity to protect our reproductive rights, and time and again he made the choice to side with the IDC instead of New York’s women,” Nixon said in the video. “On everything from reproductive rights to sexual harassment, the governor has shown us just how out of touch he is. New Yorkers deserve better. The old establishment boys club and their centrist, corporate policies are not cutting it.”