In his fevered push to pass the abortion expansion bill that’s been kicking around Albany for over a decade, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asserted on Monday: “The political games need to end.”
Yes, they do.
Except that the governor—facing a primary challenge from the left by Cynthia Nixon—is the key player in those games.
Last Friday, Cuomo all but demanded that the state Senate return to the capital for a special session to take up the Reproductive Health Act originally introduced by disgraced Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007.
He followed that Monday by announcing a series of digital ads targeting eight Republican state senators, including Majority Leader John Flanagan, declaring that they “must come back to Albany” to vote on the bill.
Except that Flanagan has said the Republicans will not approve the bill in the form that passed the Assembly, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said his chamber will not approve changes to “water it down.”
So what’s up, governor?
An opportunity, that’s what.
With President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, those on both sides of the abortion debate think there might be a chance that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion will be overturned.
That’s something we would heartily approve.
We doubt that such a consequential move is likely—at least in the near future. Even if Kavanaugh is approved for the high court, an appropriate case would have to be brought and accepted by the justices, and it’s far from certain that there’d be enough votes to overturn Roe.
More likely, any abortion-related cases that come before the court would involve smaller changes aimed at permitting states to regulate abortion rather than banning it completely.
And that’s where Cuomo’s push to get the abortion expansion bill passed gets bizarre.
New York, unfortunately, already has a strong law guaranteeing legal abortion in the state, and that law would take effect if Roe ever were overturned. In fact, the New York legislature stunned the nation in 1970 when it passed the most permissive abortion law in the country, three years before Roe v. Wade.
Cuomo’s approach now is to try to convince people that Roe is about to be overturned and that New York’s law must be “codified.” As if it isn’t already, as if thousands of abortions were not performed legally in 1970-1973 in the years before Roe.
What the Spitzer/Cuomo-backed bill will do is to move abortion law from the penal code to public health law, including unwanted abortions. In other words, if a man somehow forced his partner to abort a wanted baby, it is not clear there would be a criminal penalty.
The bill also would let nurse-practitioners and others who are not doctors perform abortions, and would allow the procedure after 24 weeks if the mother’s health is at risk or the baby is considered nonviable.
It seems to us that there’s a good deal of risk to women with those measures, and we also wonder if the governor has considered the risk to his political capital as he pushes them.
Or is it the case, as a Senate Republican spokesman said, “The governor is all politics all the time these days, and the people of this state deserve far better.”
They certainly do.