Josh Riley highlights Marc Molinaro’s controversial abortion vote in new ad

Rep. Marc Molinaro voted against codifying Roe v. Wade while in the Assembly, which challenger Josh Riley hopes to capitalize on.

Democratic congressional candidate Josh Riley

Democratic congressional candidate Josh Riley Josh Riley campaign

Reproductive rights look to be a hot button issue for congressional candidates this year, and Josh Riley, the Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Marc Molinaro in the 19th Congressional District, is looking to capitalize on the issue by releasing his first ad of the general election cycle.

The Riley campaign’s new digital ad, which was exclusively shared with City & State, features audio of a conversation between Molinaro and a voter about the freshman lawmaker’s position on abortion. The Riley campaign is projected to spend several thousand dollars on the initial digital ad campaign.

In the conversation, the voter asks Molinaro why he voted against codifying Roe v. Wade when he was in the Assembly. “I think there ought to be limitations,” Molinaro can be heard telling the voter. “I don’t know how to vote for someone who will not stand up, look me in the eye and say, ‘I will support a woman’s right to choose,’” the voter says before the ad ends.

Molinaro declined to comment on his Assembly vote but said in a statement that he opposed a national abortion plan while in Congress.

“Josh Riley is a fraud…I kept my word in Congress,” Molinaro said. “I said no to a national abortion ban and was the first Republican to say no to restrictions on IVF, mifepristone and contraception.”

In 2022, Molinaro told the USA Today Network that reproductive rights are a state-level issue and that Congress had no role to play, adding he wouldn’t vote for an abortion ban while in office. He said that he believed in restrictions on late term and partial-birth abortions and exceptions in the case of rape, incest and the health of the mother. 

New York Democrats made reproductive rights a central issue of many of their campaigns with mixed results upstate and on Long Island. But with anti-abortion legislation being passed in states across the country and the Equal Rights Amendment set to appear on the ballot in November, the issue may drive Democratic turnout.

Molinaro defeated Riley in 2022 by a tight margin, taking 50.8% of the vote compared to Riley’s 49.2%. That year, national interests are dumping millions into the race; according to the latest campaign finance filings, the two candidates have raked in over $7.5 million so far.