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Local advocates and politicians weigh in on the Roe v. Wade ruling

Rochester's skyline from Court Street
James Brown
Rochester's skyline from Court Street

The Friday ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which provided a constitutional right to abortion for almost 50 years, has brought strong reactions across a variety of local advocacy groups and political leaders.

Sarah Timmerman, president of the Rochester chapter of the National Organization for Women, said that she takes some comfort in the fact that New York codified abortion protections in state law in 2019.

"I would, though, point to the fact that just this week, the town of Henrietta turned down an application from Planned Parenthood to open a clinic there,” said Timmerman. “So while there is technically access in a lot of New York state, we are not without the ability to deny that."

Timmerman, who is 24, says she and her friends will likely have to live with the rollback of abortion rights for decades. Timmerman also predicted that this will not be the last constitutional right reversed by the current Supreme Court.

"I myself am a lesbian and I'm scared for my ability to have a family and get married. I'm very scared."

In Friday’s decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion in which he explicitly called on his colleagues to put the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage, gay sex and even contraception cases on the table.

The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate a constitutional right to abortion was not a shock to supporters of abortion rights, after the earlier leak of information last month.

But for Michelle Casey, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, it is still upsetting news.

“It’s completely devastating; my mind immediately went to all the people that are going to be adversely impacted by this. Obviously in New York, abortion is still safe and legal and we’ll continue to serve patients here,” said Casey. “But there’s vast swaths of the country that won’t have access to it.”

Casey does expect to see an influx of people seeking abortions from other states, such as Ohio, which there are more restrictions on that procedure.

She said Planned Parenthood has been working to add staff to handle the influx.

State Senator Samra Brouk, a Democrat representing part of the Rochester area, is calling the Supreme Court Decision on Roe v. wade an attack on human rights.

She said that New York state has already taken actions including protecting the right of people coming from other states to New York to get an abortion.

But Brouk is concerned about any other roll back of other measures that could be coming from the Supreme Court.

“Now we need to look very closely at this decision and we’re certainly doing that,” said Brouk. “I’m sure the Senate leadership is doing that, I know the governor is doing that, I’m sure the Assembly’s doing it, …and wherever we think this might go, we need to make sure we can codify those rights, at least in New York.”

While many local political leaders and advocacy organizations released statements on Friday criticizing the rollback of abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, some conservative groups are praising that ruling.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, which is headed up by Spencerport-based Jason McGuire is one of them. He released a statement saying that his group and others opposed to abortion have advocated for Roe V Wade to be overturned. McGuire said that all 50 states are now free to make their own abortion laws, and he said that, "Untold numbers of lives will be saved.”

Among local Republican politicians, State Senator Rob Ortt, who is the Senate’s Minority Leader, did not weigh in on the substance of the court’s decision, but he did say that the ruling returns authority over reproductive health laws to where they belong, the states.

Ortt says the decision will not impact laws or access to reproductive health services in New York.

Bishop Salvatore Matano, who leads the Rochester Catholic Diocese, released a statement saying that he joins with his brother bishops of New York state "in giving thanks to God for today’s decision." He also asked that all of the Diocese’s charitable agencies renew and expand their services to women and children.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.