It’s been nearly four months since the U.S. Supreme Court essentially overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving the decision on whether to allow abortions back to the states. Yet, women’s reproductive rights remain a primary issue for a number of voters, including those who visited Hofstra University last week to hear from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
It was certainly on Francene Friedman’s mind.
“Having survived two ectopic pregnancies many, many, many years ago, I would like to know what would happen if, God forbid, my granddaughter decides to go that way,” the Cedarhurst resident said. “How would she able to survive?”
Gillibrand, one of the state’s two Democratic representatives in the upper chamber of Capitol Hill, characterized the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a broader attack on personal decisions.
“The challenge we have is that the Dobbs decision said that women in reproductive years do not have a right to privacy,” Gillibrand said. “Which is a shocking decision.”
A pregnancy is considered ectopic when a fertilized egg is prevented from entering the uterus, which could damage nearby organs and even threaten the life of the would-be mother. Such a condition could require dilation and curettage, Gillibrand said — removing tissue from inside the uterus to help clear a path.
Yet, such a procedure “might be considered an abortion in some state laws’ analysis,” the senator said.
“You might have to go to court to get your D and C. Well, you’ll be dead by then.”
While those advocating to maintain reproductive rights established through Roe v. Wade are disappointed by the court’s reversal, Gillibrand did acknowledge the decision has rallied more voters behind the Democratic Party ahead of the crucial midterm elections where Gillibrand’s party hopes to retain control over both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.
Still, the senator encouraged voters at her town hall to make their voices heard on the issue.
“I think for both of your grandchildren, their rights and privileges are at risk,” she said. “We should fight for those rights and privileges back.”
But should Congress hold the U.S. Supreme Court more accountable? That’s something Hofstra student Nicholas Isaacs asked Gillibrand, especially since a number of justices who voted for Dobbs told senators during their confirmation hearings Roe was watertight precedent.
“I think that the Supreme Court justices did lie,” Gillibrand said. “I think that they intentionally misled the senators in these hearings to believe that they would not overturn precedent.
“They should be held accountable. The only way we can do that is through impeachment, which would take too much time and is not the priority of the American people. I don’t recommend that, but I do think the House can do an investigation and publish all the statements so people know for sure that these men and women were not honest.”
Gillibrand also is for exploring term limits for Supreme Court justices, although such a move would likely require a Constitutional amendment.
“I think that the idea that Supreme Court justices and all other judges who are appointed to life will make them non-political just isn’t true,” Gillibrand said. “Now they’re appointed to life and they’re 100 percent political. That idea that they deserve a lifetime appointment, I think, should be discontinued. I just don’t believe it.”
Gillibrand also fielded question about the economy, mental health care, and the upcoming midterms. She also received a thank you from representatives of Moms Demand Action for the passage of gun reform legislation over the summer.
Like other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Gillibrand says she finds town halls like the Hofstra one as a crucial part of democracy.
“I think this is one of the most important things I do as a senator: Listen to my constituents,” Gillibrand said. “Hear what’s on your mind. Answer your questions.
“It allows me to do my job much better.”