Foley Square

Thousands Turn Out for NYC Protests on Abortion Rights as SCOTUS Confirms, Condemns Leak

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts called the draft opinion leak "a singular and egregious breach" of trust and "an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here."

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Grassroots organizers held major rallies Tuesday across New York City in support of abortion rights following a bombshell Politico report that a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion appears likely to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.

A large protest started in Manhattan's Foley Square around 5 p.m., and soon grew to thousands of participants as police had to close off nearby streets to traffic. The crowd grew large as speakers like New York Attorney General Letitia James addressed those angry over the leaked decision, as abortion advocates far outnumbered those who favored the draft opinion.

James told her own personal story in front of the huge crowd.

NBC New York Anjali Hemphill reports.

"I was just elected and I was faced with the decision of whether to have an abortion or not, and I chose to have an abortion," she said. "I walked proudly into Planned Parenthood, and I make no apologies to anyone."

Earlier in the day, politicians and protesters put on pink and vowed to push back.

"I resent any male telling me or my sisters in the United States of America what the hell we can do with our bodies," said NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. "If the judicial branch won't stand up for reproductive healthcare for women in this country, the legislative branch must step up."

Another protest was held in Brooklyn by the Barclays Center, while other locations in New Jersey and Connecticut drew rallies throughout the day as well, as the nation works to absorb the shock of the stunning leak surrounding one of the country's most historic and controversial cases.

The same could be said in Washington D.C., where rallies grew contentious at times between the opposing sides. Evening rallies lasted into the night, when a midnight rally was planned to take place on the steps of the Supreme Court Building.

Grassroots organizers held major rallies Tuesday across New York City in support of abortion rights following a bombshell Politico report that a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion appears likely to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer. NBC New York's Linda Gaudino reports from Foley Square.

Some, like Marie Tasy with local abortion rights opponent group New Jersey Right to Life, were cheering the decision, and hopeful it becomes law soon.

"Many people are praying this is going to be the final decision," Tasy said.

In Albany, state leaders stood firm as the last line of defense for abortion rights.

"You don't want to mess with us, you don't want to mess with the state of New York, and I assure you, this is a fight you will not win," Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Fellow Democratic governor Phil Murphy also remained adamant about protecting a person's right to choose.

"This remains fully intact because her in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we’ve prepared ourselves for the worst," he said Tuesday.

The 1973 landmark decision is in the spotlight, as the Supreme Court appears ready to upend the decision that gave women the right to choose. As both sides react, the court us calling for the leak to be investigated. NBC New York's Erica Byfield, Melissa Russo and Jonathan Dienst have team coverage.

Meanwhile, Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis said in a statement that "I believe it is important to wait for the court to complete its work period anything else undermines the justices deliberative process."

Some states, including New York, have already enacted laws specifically legalizing abortion regardless of Roe, and those laws may hold regardless of the ruling. Some Democratic senators said that the draft opinion means it is now times to codify Roe v. Wade into law, although New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez admitted that the Senate doesn't currently have the votes.

Still, New Yorkers outraged over the reported leak want their voices heard — as do advocates of their cause. Hillary Clinton tweeted an image with the details of the planned Foley Square protest, urging anyone in the area at the time to attend the "Channel Your Rage Into Action" event.

The square has been a key rallying point for a number of contentious issues in recent years, from protests over the city's COVID vaccine mandate to George Floyd's death and Occupy Wall Street, among other nationally divisive matters.

More protests and rallies, for both sides of the debate, have been planned throughout the tri-state in the coming days. Another large one will be held at Manhattan's Union Square on May 14.

The U.S. Supreme Court released a statement confirming the authenticity of the Politico report Tuesday as well. Chief Justice John Roberts, who forcefully condemned the breach, said he had directed the court marshal to conduct a full investigation into the source of it. Read the full statement below.

"To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed," Roberts' statement said. "The work of the Court will not be affected in any way. We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce – permanent employees and law clerks alike – intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law."

"Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court," Roberts continued. "This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here. I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak."

Tuesday's events follow an unprecedented leak to Politico that indicates the draft opinion (written by New Jersey's Justice Samuel Alito) following oral arguments last December had the backing of five justices to completely overturn Roe vs Wade.

Assuming the draft is real, it still hasn't been formally issued and isn't the law of the land yet. It is also possible that the justices' final vote and decision may change before the ruling is due this summer, although legal experts don't think that will happen.

President Joe Biden released a statement on the leaked report Tuesday. Read that here and learn more about the potential impact in New York here.

News 4 New York has team coverage.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 16 states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly protect the right to abortion to varying degrees.

In 2019, New York’s pro-reproductive rights legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act, codifying the protections of Roe v. Wade in the state’s constitution.

RHA preserves the right to abortion in New York, despite federal or judicial efforts to dismantle Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York reiterated in a statement Tuesday as it denounced the reported leaked draft opinion.

"This is not simply a draft of a devastating and politically motivated Supreme Court opinion, it is a roadmap for dismantling our fundamental right to safe, legal abortion, a right codified nearly FIFTY YEARS AGO," the group's interim president and CEO Joy Calloway said in a statement.

"Let’s be clear: Abortion is still legal," she added. "As of today, it remains your constitutional right. And thanks to reproductive rights champions in New York, abortion will remain safe and legal in this great state regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court. Abortion is health care. Health care happens at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York."

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