This is a letter to the editor by Tompkins County resident Nick Salvatore. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I expected it. Still, I felt rage and despair when the Supreme Court released the decision stripping women of their constitutional right to abortion. Millions of our daughters, granddaughters, sisters, cousins, nieces, and friends live in states where coerced pregnancies and forced births might become the norm. Ohio bans abortion after six weeks when many women do not know they are pregnant. In Pennsylvania, the Republican candidate for governor pledges to sign a similar heartbeat ban.
New York women do not face an abysmal future in which abortion is illegal and only women with the financial and social resources to travel to another state can obtain a safe and legal abortion. They retain this right in large part thanks to the efforts of women like Leslie Danks Burke, candidate for the NY52nd seat which includes Tompkins County.
After Roe became law, New Yorkers took abortion rights for granted, but not Leslie. As a long time champion of reproductive health rights, Leslie followed the Supreme Court decisions that chipped away at abortion access over the past decade. As a lawyer, she understood that Roe had never been codified in New York State and that the overthrow of Roe left New York women vulnerable. As early as 2013, when I first met her, maintaining access to abortion for New York women was a passionate priority for Leslie. She spread the word about this threat, became a relentless lobbyist in Albany and publicized how a Republican run New York Senate refused to pass any law that would codify New York abortion rights. The refusal of politicians like Senator Tom O’Mara to advance abortion legislation was a major region Leslie ran against him in 2026 and 2020. Given the gerrymandering of the district, both races were tremendous longshots. Carrying a progressive pro-abortion message throughout conservative rural area might have seemed futile to a less engaged women, but Leslie persisted. No other Democratic challenger has ever matched her numbers.
Not every Democratic politician always shared her concern. Although he has an unassailable and sterling record on supporting abortion rights, Bernie Sanders, in 2016, dismissed Planned Parenthood as part of the establishment and urged the Party not to get hung up on abortion in another interview. As recently as last April, many New York State Democratic candidates paid little, if any, public attention to the looming threat to Roe, instead emphasizing other issues. Most now proclaim their unwavering support of woman and even raise money off the issue. This is all to the good. I welcome any vocal support for women’s reproductive health rights.
But Leslie has always been there. The persistent lobbying she and other reproductive rights activists carried on for years played an enormous role in securing the 2017 passage of the NY Women’s Reproductive Health Act. Well before her current campaign, Leslie demanded a constitutional amendment guaranteeing New Yorkers a right to abortion. I am delighted that her opponent finally joined her in this call and that the legislature voted to approve that amendment.
I have read, taught, and written about American history over four decades. We have entered a perilous time in our nation, like that which divided the nation before the Civil War. We can expect other rights to vanish without constant vigilance. New York, one of the State laboratories of democracy praise by Justice Brandeis, must safeguard its residents from a federal assault on human, civil and political rights. Leslie is a talented, gifted lawyer who recognized and fought back against the threat to New York women years ahead of many other politicians, even as she worked to the keep the money out of politics through the Trailblazers PAC. No other candidate matches Leslie Danks Burke’s knowledge, grit, passion, and success as a citizen activist.
I urge you to join me in voting for Leslie Danks Burke in the NY State Democratic primary on August 23rd.
Neufield Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations, Emeritus