NEW YORK—In response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s assertion Friday that pro-lifers “have no place” in New York, pro-lifers are vowing to continue to offer alternatives to abortion and fight Cuomo’s efforts to expand late-term abortions. New York has among the highest abortion rates in the country. In New York City, almost 40 percent of pregnancies end in abortion.
In a radio interview, Cuomo said “right-to-life” individuals as well as other “extreme” conservatives “have no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are.” He told pro-lifers to “figure out who you are, and figure out if your ‘extreme conservative philosophy’ can survive in this state. And the answer is no.” Cuomo lumped pro-lifers together with those who are “anti-gay” and oppose assault weapons bans. Just over a week earlier in his state of the state address, Cuomo waxed philosophically about unity amid the diversity of New York, saying, “We are Democrats and Republicans, but we are one.”
Cuomo backtracked from his comments later in a letter to the New York Post, saying his words were “distorted,” and he was saying that “an extreme right candidate cannot win statewide.”
Kirsten Smith with New Yorkers for Life said Cuomo was wrong to paint New York pro-lifers as all “conservative Republicans.” She added that he could not characterize himself as a champion of diversity in his state while excluding pro-lifers. She pointed to polling that shows upwards of 40 percent of New Yorkers describe themselves as pro-life.
“Why would the governor find so appalling those who stand up for the right of an unborn baby?” Smith said. Referencing Cuomo’s Catholic roots, she added, “He was raised in that tradition, it’s not like he hasn’t understood that position.”
Christian author Eric Metaxas, who lives in New York City and whose wife Susanne Metaxas heads up the Midtown Pregnancy Support Center in Manhattan, called on Cuomo in a tweet to resign.
Cuomo has made his pro-abortion views clear throughout his term, most recently with his support of the Women’s Equality Act (WEA), which would expand the legality of late-term abortions and remove criminal penalties associated with botched abortions, 2nd degree abortions, or the murder of a pregnant mother. New York currently offers legal protections to babies in the womb who are older than 24 weeks. The bill would allow an abortion at any point in the pregnancy for the sake of the mother’s life or health, which includes emotional health.
The act has 10 provisions, nine of them uncontroversial to the state’s pro-life groups. The whole act collapsed in the legislature last year because of the last provision, concerning late-term abortion. The Assembly passed all 10 of the provisions, but the abortion provision met opposition in the Senate, where Republicans have a coalition majority with a handful of Democrats. By one vote, the Senate tabled the act, with the help of votes from two pro-life Democrats. The Senate passed the other nine points, but for now the Assembly has refused to pass the other measures without the abortion component.
In his state of the state address earlier this month, Cuomo vowed to pass the act again, including the abortion provision. Pro-life groups in Albany continue to count votes and monitor the legislation, but for now they don’t believe it will pass. The groups say they support the passage of the other nine points in the bill, which include provisions like anti-trafficking measures.
Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican who co-leads the Senate with Democratic Sen. Jeff Klein, reiterated that he would not support the bill’s abortion expansion.
“We passed the nine points, we’re not going to be supportive of expanding abortion,” he told reporters recently. “We’ve done nine, in our business that’s pretty good. … I think the Assembly should get on board and pass them.”
Jason McGuire, with New Yorkers for Life, said he doesn’t think Cuomo will prioritize passage of the WEA this session because this is an election year. Still, New Yorkers for Life and the New York Catholic Conference, the two groups who have tracked the law and lobbied against it, say NARAL Pro-Choice New York is pressing legislators hard for the law’s passage. NARAL set up a new website specifically targeting the Senate on the issue.
“We do have a plan,” said Smith. “We’re not letting this go.”
The pro-life groups working together against the bill in Albany assured senators they have not forgotten the issue: “The message to senators who voted with us is: Thank you!” they wrote. “We are counting on you to hold firm in your conviction that abortion expansion is both unneeded and unwanted. Thank you for voting for the nine real improvements for women’s lives. … The message to senators who voted against us is: Please reconsider your support for abortion expansion. It is unneeded and unwanted. Women will not achieve equality by forfeiting their children.”