With a new conservative majority in place in the U.S. Supreme Court following the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, abortion rights have become a focus of attention across the country as millions of Americans wait to see if the highest court in America will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision at some point in the near future.
The national issue became a local flash point in a debate between Democratic Assemblymember Peter Abbate and his Conservative opponent Rosemary Mangino in Dyker Heights on Tuesday.
Describing herself as a “pro-life feminist,” Mangino said she is opposed to abortion as well as contraception. “I respect God. I will not be scared to speak out about that,” she told the audience at the debate, which was sponsored by the Dyker Heights Civic Association and held at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Dyker Heights.
“I am pro-choice and I’ve said it many times,” said Abbate.
Abbate is seeking re-election on Nov. 6 in the 49th Assembly District. The district includes parts of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Sunset Park. Abbate was first elected to the Assembly in 1986.
Mangino ran against Abbate in 2016 and lost. There is no Republican candidate in the current race.
The uphill battle Mangino faces as she tries to unseat Abbate was evident at the debate when she pointed out the incumbent has a “100 percent pro-choice voting record.” Mangino perhaps meant it as a criticism, but the audience burst into wild applause for Abbate.
Mangino blasted the protest demonstrations against Kavanaugh that took place at the U.S. Capitol during and after the Senate voted to confirm him. Kavanaugh has a reputation as a conservative leaning jurist. Kavanaugh had been accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of sexually assaulting her years ago when they were both in high school and the public hearing in which both Ford and Kavanaugh testified riveted the nation.
“Women were screaming and yelling for the right to kill babies,” Mangino said, dismissing the protesters.
During the question and answer session, sex abuse of children was a topic.
Abbate voted favor of the Child Victims Act, a bill that would extend the statute of limitations to age 50 for adults who were sex abuse victims when they were children and are now seeking to sue their abusers in civil court for damages. Under current state law, a sex abuse survivor is prohibited from filing a lawsuit after age 23.
Mangino said she would be opposed to paying damages to adults who suffered sex abuse as children. “It’s shopping money for them,” she said.
If the victims were indeed abused at the hands of Catholic priests and other adults, she asked, “Why aren’t they seeking psychological help?”
Abbate preferred to use his speaking time at the debate to talk about his three-pronged approach to public service.
One part of his job deals with his constitutional responsibilities, he said, such as passing bills. Another part deals with passing the state budget. “That’s an important part,” he said, adding that he works hard to secure funding in the budget to pay for local projects and programs in his district.
The third part of his job is providing constituent services, Abbate said. “Literally thousands of people have come into my office,” he said.
Many of his constituents are on a first-name basis with him, he said. “No one comes into my office and calls me assemblyman. They call me Peter,” he said.