“We don’t want women to die in childbirth,” Kathryn Garcia, who is running for mayor of New York, told me on March 30. The former head of sanitation in the city, she just got a surprise New York Times endorsement, raising her stature in the race to succeed Bill De Blasio.
I encountered her when she was giving remarks outside Manhattan’s flagship Planned Parenthood in lower Manhattan. When I asked why she would choose an abortion clinic to talk about such a unifying issue as maternal health care, she repeated a few times that she is for a woman’s right to choose. She also insisted that Planned Parenthood provides an “enormous” number of other services.
Garcia was adopted as an infant. She is in a unique position to change how our national debate about abortion functions. She could tell the girls going into Planned Parenthood for abortions to rethink their options. They could choose adoption and allow the next Kathryn to be born — if we’d rally behind real options.
Politics today isn’t considered noble work, but it should be. People who feel called to public service are a necessary blessing. In recent years, politics has become a circus, but even here in New York, in our lifetimes, we’ve had mayors who were accessible and reasonable, regardless of whether you supported them. You don’t have to agree on everything to be friends and collaborators.
What was most striking about my brief encounter with Garcia was what different planets we seem to live on — those who support legal abortion and those of us who consider it a massive ongoing tragedy that shouldn’t be ignored.
Garcia also had a revered midwife introduce her, who, in her remarks, expressed gratitude for the Reproductive Health Act signed and celebrated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The abortion expansion act made it possible for midwives to be abortion providers. Like doctors actively ending life, this seems so contrary to the vocation of the midwife.
Back when he was running for the Democratic nomination for president, another mayoral candidate, Andrew Yang, talked about the tragedy of abortion. He’s having to explain and walk back his words now, under criticism. But this is how extreme politics has gotten. How different some women’s lives would be, if they knew they would be celebrated as heroines if they chose adoption for their babies. Of course, it’s terrifying to be unexpectedly pregnant. And we live in a culture where abortion is often the seemingly expected response. At that same Planned Parenthood where Garcia was speaking, I’ve seen too many young women filled with fear and pain. They deserve better.
Garcia is a mother who was adopted in her earliest days. She could do something amazing for New York City and for the whole violent culture we all live in if she wanted to be a transformational candidate. But so far, she doesn’t seem willing.
When there is violence on the street, we should think about the violence that happens inside an abortion clinic. We need to recognize mothers as mothers, and not be part of the pressure to end the lives of their children. We can be pro-choice or pro-life and work together to see that there is informed consent and real choices. Kathryn Garcia has not given any indication she has a heart to be that kind of leader, but what a mercy it would be if she chose to be. New trails would be blazed, and new lives would be saved.