Attorney General Letitia James is on an abortion healthcare crusade. Young girls and women with unwanted pregnancies who live in the New York area, or can travel to the Big Apple, will have access to health care and wrap-around services.
“It’s a five-alarm situation in the nation,” James told the Amsterdam News. “The last 72 hours have been completely devastating and it’s a hard turn to the right.”
She also stated that the nation “knew this was coming, it doesn’t come as any surprise. The Republicans have been preparing for this for a very, very long time, but nonetheless I am disappointed, but more importantly, I am concerned about health care, women, and individuals who may find themselves pregnant.”
On June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe versus Wade, the day that everyone knew was coming still sent shock waves through some—and exhilaration through others.
The almost 50 year federal protection of women’s healthcare rights to seek an abortion if wanted, was struck down in a 6 to 3 decision from the conservative Supreme Court.
One of the six Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. stated, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” Former president Donald Trump appointees justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were joined by Clarence Thomas in the landmark ruling.
Dissenting justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer stated that the rights of women and the reputation of the court were irrevocably damaged by this “new and bare majority of this court.” In a joint statement they added that it was sorrow for the Supreme Court, “but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection—we dissent.”
That same day, James slammed the court for denying the fundamental federal right to abortion, saying that the “ruling is a vicious, dangerous, and deliberate attack on our most basic freedom as humans. Every single person in this country should have the right to make their own decisions about their own bodies. But make no mistake: we will not go back to the inhumane and restrictive pre-Roe era. Regardless of the situation at the national level, New York will always be a safe haven for anyone seeking an abortion. I will work tirelessly to ensure that low-income New Yorkers and people from hostile states have access to the care they need and deserve. I will always fight to protect our right to make decisions about our own bodies and expand access to this critical and lifesaving care.”
On Monday, June 27, Attorney General James joined a national coalition of 22 attorneys general to issue a joint statement “reaffirming their commitment to supporting and expanding access to abortion care. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, access to safe and legal abortion remains robustly protected in numerous states across the country, including in New York and the coalition states. As highlighted by the multistate coalition’s efforts in the amicus brief in Dobbs, the attorneys general will continue to fight to support the rights of pregnant people nationwide.”
Their statement declared, “While this is a perilous moment for our nation, it is a moment that calls for action. Our promise to our residents is simple: we’ll never stop defending your rights. Regardless of the decision in Dobbs, broad access to abortion remains protected in states that recognize reproductive freedom, such as ours.”
In their joint statement Attorney General James joined attorneys general of states including: New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
They stated, “People across the nation are now confronted with the prospect of having to travel from their homes to our states to seek access to the fundamental health care to which they should be entitled. For those unable to make the journey, laws banning abortion in their home states will lead to poorer health outcomes and reduced socioeconomic opportunities. Those harms will fall disproportionately on people of color and people with fewer resources, further perpetuating our nation’s historical inequities.”
There’s a question rattling around, Why did the democrats not codify Roe versus Wade since 1973?
“I can’t answer that question, I don’t represent the Democratic Party,” James replied, “and I cannot give you an answer to something that I’ve not been involved in deciding. There’s days where I question the politics of the Democratic Party and their strategy. In the State of New York I do know that we passed it into law, hopefully they will codify it in the Constitution, hopefully they will pass this Thursday the equality amendment so it will codify in the New York State constitution.”
“Abortion care is health care,” James told the Amsterdam News on Tuesday, June 28. “Overturning the Dobbs decision, Roe versus Wade is going to have a disproportionate impact on people of color, especially Black women and low income women all across this nation, and particularly in those Republican States where they will be criminalizing a woman’s right to choose; where they will be turning neighbors into bounty hunters and vigilantes; where individuals who assist, aid and abet a woman who seeks to have an abortion, those individuals will be prosecuted.”
As rallies and protests for both sides of the argument take place all over the country, James added, “It’s unfortunate that in the last 96 hours that we have lost our rights, and some governments are not bound to respect the rights of women. We woke up the next day post Roe recognizing that individuals who get can pregnant and/or who are seeking abortions have lost fundamental rights, which we’ve relied upon for over 50 years, based upon the politics and the radical right of this Supreme Court.
“It’s unfortunate, but the Republicans had a game plan and we didn’t.”
The previous administration made it quite clear what their agenda was. Then president Donald Trump put those three justices—Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh—in place so they could do just this, and they have done it. So they’re happy, and opponents are now behind the eightball trying to play catch up.
James answered, “That’s right. But, it was less Donald Trump, it was more Mitch McConnell. He has shaped the Supreme Court, and he has no regrets whatsoever. They have no idea, and this one religious radical who is on the Supreme Court, the consequences and the harm that it will cause to low income women, to Black women and to Latino women all across this country, who may resort to engaging in self-abortion or visiting or frequenting individuals who are unlicensed medical professionals.”
There are those who purport that these mostly radical white men claim to have a love for fetuses, but not so much for children or the women who produce them.
“No, not at all,” James agreed. “These individuals, these Republicans who say they are pro-life are not pro-life because as soon as these children are born, they oppose child care, they oppose prenatal care, they oppose food stamps, they oppose universal school lunch, they oppose the expansion of medicaid, they oppose all types of assistance to living children. So for them to say that they are pro-life is a complete lie, they are very hypocritical.They are not supportive of expanding the safety net for children in this country.”
There are 13 states where their trigger laws meant the abortion ban almost became law immediately after the Supreme Court decision was announced, including Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and North and South Dakota. Then there are 13 others about to enact the ban, including Alabama, Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have announced that there is no ban coming to those states.
“New York is a state that respects a woman’s right to choose. We welcome individuals to come to New York. We’ve established a fund in the State of New York that will go to not-for-profit providers to provide abortions and to assist individuals to travel to New York to provide them with care. So individuals can go to abortionfinder.org to get further information.
“There is also a bill pending in Albany to expand it to provide even additional resources to the fund to assist individuals who seek to have abortions in the State of New York, and we are also looking to see what we can do to expand the use of medical abortion here in the State of New York. You know that if you go online individuals can basically get pills and medication from out of the country, but I urge everyone to be very, very careful of that. We are urging the federal government to relax some of the requirements so that one can get medication to have an abortion, it’s a two-step process, plus it requires that one go to a doctor to and what we’re trying to relax the requirements so that individuals can basically exercise full autonomy over their bodies.”
Ways that can happen James told the paper, is, “One, come to New York or any other state that affirms a woman’s right to choose, a woman’s right to have an abortion, who recognizes abortion as health care; or two, medical abortion making that readily available to individuals.”
James has been very open about her own personal experience. Back in May, when it was revealed that the Supreme Court was seriously contemplating overturning the federally protected right to abortion, she spoke at a press conference about her own experience.
“Yes, I was a city council member, and I had an abortion. It was a decision between me and my doctor and my God, and no one else. I make no apologies for it. It was the right decision for me at that time, and had I not made that decision I would probably not be the attorney general of the State of New York.”
In addition she said, “A number of young girls would come to my office in Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, young girls who didn’t know where to turn who needed advice, and I would oftentimes refer them to Planned Parenthood. That’s why I will always support Planned Parenthood and urge [they] be expanded all throughout the United States.”
The one-time Brooklyn council member, turned public advocate, turned New York State’s attorney general declared, “But, given where we are right now, at this moment in time in history, given this place, what we can do, because that decision was nothing more than a political decision, we’ve got to respond with a political response.
“We’ve got to vote. We’ve got to urge the United States Senate to remove the filibuster. We’ve got to vote to make sure that we codify this in the United States constitution, that they pass the equal rights amendment, and that we can do that is we’ve got to hold on to the majority in the United States senate, and get rid of some Democrats who act like Republicans. And so in Pennsylvania we have an opportunity to elect a Pennsylvania Democrat as a United States senator. And in Nevada we have the opportunity to do that, that is really critically important, and in Wisconsin we have an opportunity to do that. We need to pick up three United States senators, hold on to what we have, and then vote against them, vote to repeal the filibuster, and then vote to codify Roe versus Wade to protect all individuals. And then lastly we’ve got to hold onto the House of Representatives.
“So New York is good, we just need to reach out to our friends and allies. We need to volunteer, we need to get on freedom buses and go to states in the South and in the Northwest, and vote for pro choice Democrats, vote for individuals who want responsible gun laws; vote for individuals who recognize that our country has turned a radical right turn. We have got to shift that pendulum back towards justice and equality for all.”
As of now, James declared that the Supreme Court is changing standards, and not for the better.
“If you read the decisions they go back to the 1900s, the 1800s,” she determined. “The gun regulations that they overturned—Justice [Clarence] Thomas—who’s an embarrassment and a disgrace to Thurgood Marshall, he went back to the beginning of time when Black people were considered three-fifths of a person. He did not take into consideration what is happening on the ground…in New York, and all across the nation with these mass shootings, every day in urban centers. He wants to open up the discussion with respects to unenumerated rights, which not only applies to the right to have an abortion, but the right to privacy, the right to contraception, the right to marry what you wanna marry. So his decisions, his concurrent decisions, his majority decisions are dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. The justice that never said a word, and now he is in full control, and he is causing more harm to this country, and he is dividing us. We are a country right now that it is at war with itself. All of our freedoms are being restricted.”
In the joint statement the 22 state attorneys general assured that in their jurisdiction, “If you seek access to abortion and reproductive health care, we’re committed to using the full force of the law to support you. We will continue to use all legal tools at our disposal to fight for your rights and stand up for our laws. We will support our partners and service providers. We will take on those who seek to control your bodies and leverage our collective resources—thousands of lawyers and dedicated public servants across our states.”