Last week I participated in a number of events to decry the Supreme Court decision draft that would overturn Roe v. Wade.While the final decision has not been released, the arguments and assumptions presented in the draft are shocking and represent a radical return to a time when the rights of women, personal autonomy and individual privacy were not accorded the protection in law that the vast majority of Americans view as rights today.
In the 1965 Supreme Court 7-2 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court recognized the right to privacy in overturning a state law forbidding the use of contraceptives. Justice William O. Douglas’s majority opinion traced the right to privacy through a number of the federal constitution’s Bill of Rights. The court said, “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship. We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights — older than our political parties, older than our school system.”
I share this passage because it highlights the radical assumptions of the draft opinion printed last week. Across the country a number of states are not only taking actions to criminalize healthcare decisions that should be the province of a woman and her physician; some states now see the Supreme Court as giving those states authority to outlaw contraception. All rights of privacy are now at risk.
At our best, the history of this country has been to expand the rights of the individual as we gain a better understanding of what we can do better. We should reject a vision that seeks to take rights away. The decision by a woman to terminate a pregnancy is the most private and personal of decisions. The right to privacy and personal autonomy for healthcare decisions should be vested in the individual. Privacy rights, the right to marry, voting rights, laws that protect us from discrimination and other protections we depend upon are now at risk as never before.
I believe that the majority of people in this country will not stand for our rights to be taken away, for our rights to be at the whim of each state legislature. Certainly, we will protect our values in New York. We passed our own Reproductive Health Act in 2019.
As a nation we believe that certain rights flow from the individual and are deserving of national protection. I remain committed to these beliefs and will do all I can to protect our freedoms.