On the heels of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nomination, Cynthia Nixon appeared at a pro-choice rally in Union Square Tuesday afternoon with a powerful prop in hand and story to tell: Holding a wire hanger, the New York gubernatorial candidate told the crowd of protesters about her mother, who had gotten an abortion in the 1960s, years before Roe v. Wade.
Nixon first went public with the story of her mother's abortion as early as 2009, when a proposed amendment, called the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, threatened to extend an existing measure which prohibits federal spending from going toward abortion services. At the time, Nixon appeared on CNN to talk about her fear that the Stupak-Pitts would severely limit women's access to abortion in the United States.
"My mother had an illegal abortion pre-1973, and it's something that I would never want to face or want my daughter to be facing or any of her friends," Nixon said. "Abortion is a right I feel must not go away, and I feel like people aren't mobilizing so much because it's so complicated and it's difficult to understand."
Nixon went into more detail about her mother's experience when she wrote about it in 2016 for Time, explaining that in the '60s her mother had been a "working woman in New York City" working for the television game show producers behind "Family Feud" and its ilk. Nixon said she knows very little about her mother's abortion because her mother refuses to speak about it, "except to let me know that she had one and it was awful and scary."
Like other pro-choice advocates, Nixon's fears about losing reproductive rights under Trump have been renewed with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a federal judge in the D.C. Circuit court whose record forecasts disaster for the future of Roe v. Wade. And she says her opponent, Governor Andrew Cuomo, isn't doing nearly enough to help.
Nixon has attacked Cuomo for failing to push through the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) and the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act, two pieces of legislation that have stalled in the New York State Senate. The first would codify abortion rights protections into New York state law, guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion in the event that it's overturned on the federal level, while the latter would expand contraceptive coverage under an administration that has rolled back the contraceptive mandate required by the Affordable Care Act.
Cuomo has also made calls to strengthen abortion rights in the state after Kavanaugh's nomination, pressuring state senators to pass the RHA at a separate pro-choice rally. "I call on every Senate Republican to come back and reconvene in Albany—no excuses," he said on Tuesday. "The Assembly will support codification of Roe v. Wade, I will sign the bill, the Senate Democrats will vote in favor of it and we will pass Roe v. Wade for New York."
But Nixon and her supporters aren't willing to take Cuomo at his word.
"It is time for Cuomo to stop gaslighting women," Nixon wrote in a tweet. "For years, he has claimed he’s fighting to pass the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act. Yet, for years, he made the choice to side with the Republicans. Now our reproductive freedom is at risk."