NEW YORK—New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a public radio interview Monday that the state Senate likely has successfully blocked his controversial abortion legislation for this session, which ends Thursday or Friday.
The four Democrats who share Senate majority power with the Republicans introduced a bill Sunday night that includes nine of the 10 points in Cuomo’s proposed Women’s Equality Act (WEA) (see “Abortion on demand,” June 4), but cuts out the abortion portion. Senate Republicans have said they also support nine of the 10 points in the WEA, but Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos has refused to bring the abortion portion to the floor.
The Democrats’ introduction of the bill without the abortion provision signaled that Cuomo’s proposal wouldn’t see a vote this session. The governor has refused to separate the abortion provision from the nine other measures, which are much more popular and address issues like human trafficking.
The abortion proposal would legalize abortions after 24 weeks of gestation for the sake of the physical or emotional health of the mother. The bill also elevates abortion to a “right” and removes certain criminal penalties associated with abortion. It would strike a portion of New York criminal law that considers the murder of a woman more than 24 weeks pregnant a double homicide. It also removes penalties for second-degree abortion.
But pro-life advocates have not declared victory.
“You never know,” said Kirsten Smith of New Yorkers for Life, one of the groups that have lobbied lawmakers on the issue at the state capitol. New Yorkers for Life, the New York Catholic conference, and Feminists for Life are still patrolling the halls and galleries of the capitol.
“If they adjourn, we’ll fight again next session,” Smith said.
But Smith sees a benefit in the fight dragging out over time, because lawmakers will learn what is actually in Cuomo’s proposal, which he characterizes as merely codifying Roe v. Wade.
“They were unclear about a lot of this,” she said about the bill Cuomo introduced just two weeks ago. “We’ve got a significant amount of Republicans and Democrats—even not-so-moderate Democrats—that do not like the abortion expansion plank.”
As the state legislative session comes to a close, Cuomo is facing his lowest approval rating since he took office, according to a new poll from Siena College, though his rating still stands at a decent 50 percent. He lashed out at the four Democrats who helped block the abortion bill, saying they were “theoretically Democrats” and threatening consequences during the 2014 election cycle.
“We have to come to terms with the fact that the Republican conference in New York state in the state Senate is a right-to-life conference,” Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Klein told The New York Times. “I’m not going to bring a bill to the floor to fail.”
NARAL Pro-Choice New York, which has pushed for the abortion proposal, said Klein and the other three Democrats could no longer call themselves “pro-choice.”