Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill guaranteeing abortion rights that would align New York and U.S. law and may win over Republicans in next year’s elections.
The measure would decriminalize abortions after 24 weeks when a woman’s health -- not just life -- is at risk. Cuomo, a 55-year-old Democrat, says his bill would protect women if the U.S. Supreme Court rolls back its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the right.
“We want to codify that in New York state law,” Cuomo said at a press briefing in Albany. “This is very simple: are you pro-choice or are you not?”
In recent years, Republicans in states from North Dakota to South Carolina have pushed a record number of laws to restrict when and how women can terminate pregnancies. Cuomo, considered a potential presidential contender, would take New York in the opposite direction.
Republicans in the state senate oppose Cuomo’s move. In November, Democrats won a senate majority for the first time since 2008, yet five members calling themselves the Independent Democratic Conference broke away to ally with Republicans, letting that party continue to hold sway.
If Cuomo can persuade lawmakers to vote on the bill, he would force Republicans to take an antiabortion stance in a state where most of their voters -- led by suburban women -- favor abortion rights, said Bruce Gyory, who teaches politics at the State University of New York at Albany.
“This is an enormously divisive issue for the Republican conference,” said Gyory. “In the primaries, they’re pulled toward being pro-life and avoiding a Conservative Party opponent, but it creates problems for them in November.”
More than half, or 51 percent, of Republicans favored abortion rights in a March poll of registered voters by College in Loudonville, New York. Democrats used the issue to attack Republicans in the November election, helping them retake a senate majority even as they were outspent about 4-to-1, Gyory said.
The abortion bill was introduced along with measures to strengthen penalties for human trafficking, and to bring women’s wages in line with men’s.
Changing New York’s abortion law is an “unnecessary and purely political maneuver,” said Kelly Cummings, a spokeswoman for state Senator Dean Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre on Long Island and a co-leader in the upper chamber.