Facing Critics, Cuomo Continues To Call On Senate To Vote On Abortion Bill

Jul 10, 2018

For the second day in a row, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held rallies Tuesday criticizing President Donald Trump’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, and urging action on a measure that would protect the right to choose abortion in New York.

Cuomo, in Westchester and on Long Island, continued to urge the Republicans who lead the State Senate to return to the Capitol and vote on a measure that would codify the abortion rights in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and modernize New York’s 1970 laws that legalized abortion. Cuomo is among many Democrats who believe that Trump’s choice of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court could lead to a repeal of the landmark decision.

“We do not have a New York State law that provides the protections of Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade goes further than the New York State law. And the New York State law is in the criminal code,” Cuomo said. “That’s why we desperately need a New York State law that codifies the Roe v. Wade rights in this state and takes it out of the criminal code.”

Cuomo’s official events as governor are converging with his reelection campaign efforts. The rallies were staged in key swing voter districts in the New York City suburbs, and he has released a digital campaign ad.

“We know what Trump’s Supreme Court wants to do, we must fight back,” Cuomo says in the ad. "We need to protect reproductive rights in New York State." 

The governor’s critics, which include his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, say he has not done enough during his two terms in office to get the Reproductive Health Act passed.

Nixon says Cuomo tacitly supported a group of breakaway Democrats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC. She says the breakaway Democrats helped Republicans remain in control of the Senate for the past eight legislative sessions. If not for that alliance, Nixon says, Democrats could have been in power and the measure would have already become law.

“He has prioritized keeping the IDC and the Republicans in control,” Nixon said. “Knowing that they will never bring these bills up for a vote, and then blaming them for his own failure to lead.”

Nixon spoke at a news conference where she endorsed a challenger to one of the Independent Democratic Conference members. The IDC dissolved shortly after the state budget was passed in April, and reunited with the rest of the Senate Democrats, but the Democratic conference still lacks one Senate seat needed to hold the majority.

Nixon has released her own video ad, which accuses Cuomo of being disingenuous on the issue.

“It is time for Governor Cuomo to stop gaslighting New York’s women,” Nixon says in the video.

The head of the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood in New York State, Robin Chappelle Golston, of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, says her group is grateful for Cuomo’s efforts, and she puts the blame back on the Republicans.

“Look, I think there’s always more everyone can do, but he’s definitely been a champion and spoken up for our issues,” Chappelle Golston said. “I think the Republican majority has been the problem, and we need to change that. And that’s why it’s so important that we vote in the fall.”

Golston’s group is nonpartisan, and she says it would back Republicans for election to the Senate if they supported the Reproductive Health Act, but so far no GOP candidate has done so.  

A spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, Candice Giove, says the bill would allow non-doctors to perform abortions and might lessen rights of pregnant women who suffer physical abuse.

Though Cuomo is urging the GOP senators to return and vote on the measure, he’s stopping short of forcing them to come back by calling a special session of the legislature. He says he can require them to return, but he can’t require them to take a vote.