Standing in front of dozens of colleagues on the steps of City Hall alongside Mayor Eric Adams, the top women leaders of the Adams administration on Friday delivered angry and at times, anguished rebukes of the US Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade that upends the ability of women in red states to have access to abortions.
Rather than open with his own remarks, Adams ceded the podium to the women in his cabinet, underscoring the large number of high-ranking women in city government, including five of his deputy mayors.
One by one they took turns speaking to the effects of the ruling, which strikes down a person’s constitutional right to an abortion. Abortion has been legal in the state of New York since 1970. Administration officials on Friday pledged not only to expand access to abortions, women’s healthcare services, as well as the number of abortion providers.
But perhaps the most poignant moments were when several City Hall officials shared personal stories about how the right to an abortion had changed the trajectory of their lives.
The mayor spoke about “being the wrong guy at the wrong time,” when he revealed that as a troubled teenager he was told by a woman named Linda that she was pregnant with his child.
“I was 15 and I just got home from being arrested,” he said. “It was my desire automatically just to say, ‘Linda, keep the baby.’ She said, ‘Eric, you’re arrested, not going to school. What future is this baby going to have?’”
She made the decision to have an abortion, he said, adding, “She made the right call because she was empowered. She was in control.”
There’s a heckler and Deputy Mayor Joshi says, “Don’t worry. I’ll be louder than him.” Crowd erupts in applause. pic.twitter.com/3KCIItFaE9
— Elizabeth Kim (@lizkimtweets) June 24, 2022
Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, who helps overseas the city’s health and human services departments, recalled her decision to have an abortion at 18.
“I wasn’t ready to be a mom,” she said. “So if I didn’t have access to a safe, affordable abortion, I wouldn’t be here with you all today. I wouldn’t have the life that I wanted to have. I wouldn’t be able to be the mother that I wanted to be.”
Before saying that she had an abortion, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer said: “No one can really know what the circumstances are of others.”
Her abortion, she said, was the “right decision for me and my husband.”
The city’s chief housing officer, Jessica Katz, who said she had not come prepared to speak, noted that there are “different kinds of abortion stories” before describing two of her own.
“There’s the kind where you’re so young, and it’s the wrong guy and the wrong time,” she said.
Katz later shared that she had another abortion after having a miscarriage while she was undergoing fertility treatments. She suggested she elected to have an abortion so that she could quickly try to get pregnant again.
“And you’re just desperate for it to be over so you can have the baby that you so desperately want,” she said, fighting back tears.
On Friday, Adams was among the many lawmakers who affirmed the state’s status as a sanctuary for women seeking abortions, specifically those from outside the state.
“New York will be the safe haven for America,” he said.
The city has distinguished itself in other ways over the years. In 2019, New York City designated $250,000 toward a nonprofit to finance abortions for out-of-state women, which was believed to be the first time a US city funded abortions.
Asked about the current status of such funding, the mayor said his administration was examining the options.
“We are leaving no stones unturned,” he said. “This is a fight that we believe we must take on behalf of the people in the city and on behalf of the people of this country.”