As legislators returned to Albany this year, members faced a new situation: A Democratic Senate majority. For most legislators, this was a first. The State Senate has been a Republican-dominated legislative body for some time. Between 1940 and 2008, Republicans enjoyed a Senate majority for 67 out of 68 years. In the 2008 elections, Democrats won a Senate majority; however, the Republicans retook the chamber in 2010 and have held it ever since. That all changed after the 2018 election, though. The same election cycle that whisked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) to Washington, handed Democrats a near supermajority in Albany. Now, the priorities of the Democratic Party, some of whom are Democratic Socialists, are advancing in our State Capitol.
For almost a dozen years, the pro-life community in New York has blocked various iterations of late-term abortion expansion in our state, but the rise of the Democrat-dominated State Senate meant that the votes were no longer there to stop such legislation. On January 22, 2019, the New York State Legislature passed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s long-sought Reproductive Health Act (RHA), and the Governor signed it into law. In his typically heavy-handed style, the Governor ordered that the World Trade Center spire, the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and other state landmarks be lit in pink in celebration.
Since January 22, the Governor has made an uncomfortable discovery: Many, many people—both here in New York and across the nation—are not celebrating the RHA along with him. In fact, they are outraged. Outraged by the repeal of two laws requiring that viable babies born alive after late-term abortions be provided with medical care. Outraged that violent attacks on pregnant women that harm their unborn babies can no longer be prosecuted as crimes against the babies. Outraged at the prospect of medical personnel other than physicians performing abortions on women and girls in the State of New York. Outraged at the RHA’s clear purpose: To safeguard the practice of late-term abortion against any potential attempt to curtail it.
Clearly stung by the firestorm of national opposition to the RHA, Gov. Cuomo has made ongoing efforts to defend the new law. Because many provisions of the RHA are indefensible, the Governor has resorted to misdirection.
As his father did before him, Gov. Cuomo has repeatedly asserted that his Roman Catholicism is separate from his governance in regard to the issue of abortion. This is a red herring. The arguments made against the RHA are not based upon any particular religious faith, but upon concerns for the health and safety of women and children.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Gov. Cuomo trotted out the argument that the RHA “merely [codifies] existing federal law and firmly established practices.” Here, the Governor gets points for consistency, but not for accuracy. Nothing in federal law or court decisions requires that non-physicians be allowed to perform abortions; nothing in federal law makes it illegal to prosecute violent criminals for their crimes against unborn babies; nothing in federal law requires that states allow the ghastly practice of abandoning babies that are born alive as a result of late-term abortions. The facts do not match the Governor’s characterization.
Gov. Cuomo also asserts that the RHA does not allow third-trimester abortions for any reason at all. But federal court decisions on abortion have interpreted broad health exceptions like the one contained in the RHA to allow late-term abortion for reasons like emotional or economic health. And the Guttmacher Institute—a pro-choice research organization—found in 2013 that most women seeking late abortions do not do so because of life-endangering medical problems or fetal anomalies.
The RHA is known as an abortion expansion law for a reason.
Despite this significant setback, now is not the time to recoil from civic engagement, but to harness the opposition to late-term abortion and advocate for a pro-life New York.
On Tuesday, March 19, 2019, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation and our affiliate organization, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, are scheduled to hold Legislative Day 2019. The theme of Legislative Day 2019 is “A New Season”. Through special speakers, panel discussions and public witness, we’ll lay out a plan for the future of the pro-life movement in New York and across the nation. For more information, or to register for the event, please visit LegDay.NewYorkFamilies.org.
There are those who will not be able to attend Legislative Day, but still want to support NYFRF’s work of protecting human life, promoting strong families, preserving religious liberty and proclaiming the biblical concepts of justice and mercy. If this describes you, can we be so bold as to ask for your financial support? Even if you cannot make it to Legislative Day, your online donation can still be used to fight for the values we care about. If you are interested in mailing a check via mail, please make it payable to “NYFRF” and send it to: PO Box 131, Spencerport, NY 14559-0131.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to this work!