Former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to call for the codification of abortion rights into New York state law and promote the Reproductive Health Act at a rally held at Barnard’s Diana Center on Monday morning.
In past years, the issue of abortion rights has seen significant opposition by State Senate Republicans in New York, who lost majority control of the chamber in midterm elections in November. Currently, in-state abortion laws—written three years before the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case—prohibit abortions after 24 weeks unless necessary to save the woman’s life. Roe v. Wade, which has faced greater scrutiny by increasingly conservative federal courts, upholds a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion before the third trimester.
Through the proposed RHA, abortion would be decriminalized and put into public health law—a step expected to occur during the legislative session starting this Wednesday. Cuomo also announced that he will be proposing a state constitutional amendment to enshrine rights granted by Roe v. Wade into the New York State Constitution.
The rally—part of the recently re-elected governor’s public rollout of his 2019 agenda—was attended by Barnard President Sian Beilock, state legislators, media outlets, community members, and groups like Planned Parenthood. In a statement to Spectator, a college spokesperson stated that the event was not sponsored by the college but aligns with Barnard’s commitment to allow and empower a myriad of perspectives on campus. This marked Clinton’s third time speaking on Barnard’s campus; she previously gave addresses during Commencement in 2009 and Class Day in 2013.
Cuomo and Clinton were also accompanied by various members of the State Senate and assembly, including State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, and State Senator Liz Krueger.
Speakers made multiple references to and jabs at the Trump administration throughout the rally. After brief introductory statements, Stewart-Cousins introduced Clinton as “our should-have-been president.” Cuomo later referred to the Trump administration as “insane.”
Clinton’s remarks centered around the legacy of women’s rights advocacy work in New York, and she commended the continued efforts of legislators and advocates to advance women’s rights. She also acknowledged, however, the need for future advocacy given recent pushback on reproductive rights from the Trump administration as notably seen throughout Trump’s presidential campaign, during which he promised that Roe v. Wade would be overturned “automatically.”
“The struggle for women’s equality is not simply something to be read about in the pages of your history books. It continues to be the fight of our lifetime. Women’s ability to get basic health care, or right to make the most deeply personal decisions, is facing the most significant threats in recent memory,” Clinton said.
Clinton went on to introduce went on to introduce Cuomo as a “lifelong champion of women’s rights” who has continuously challenged Trump’s pro-life agenda. Both Cuomo and Clinton have taken to Twitter to promote their campaign with the hashtag #RHAin30Days, calling for greater attention and unity in the face of eroding women’s reproductive rights.
In return, Cuomo lauded Clinton for her history of progressive efforts in politics both in New York and across the country, stating that the nation made a terrible and regrettable mistake in 2016 by electing Trump. He also said that New York has been, and should continue to be, the progressive capital of the nation.
Cuomo added that two years ago he was told by the Republican State Senate that New York did not need a state law codifying Roe v. Wade, because it was assumed that federal precedence would not be touched or overturned, but times have changed.
“I have no doubt that Gorsuch is going to reverse Roe v. Wade. So what do we do? Protect ourselves. Pass a law that is a prophylactic to federal action.” Cuomo said.