Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic majority New York State Assembly have been trying to move the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) into state law since 2013. The move has been blocked every …
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic majority New York State Assembly have been trying to move the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) into state law since 2013. The move has been blocked every year by the Republican-controlled Senate. But now that President Trump has nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and Cuomo and others are predicting that Kavanaugh will help the high court overturn Roe v. Wade, the volume has been turned way up on the call for the state to take action.
In 1970, three years before Roe, New York State passed laws that allow for abortions in many cases, but RHA supporters say the law needs to be updated. According to the group Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights, RHA would move the legislation out of the criminal code and into public health law, and eliminate the possible prosecution of women who have abortions and those who provide them. It would provide exceptions to the 24-week limit on abortions for cases when a woman’s health is at risk, or the fetus is not viable. It would also expand the list of people who may provide abortions to include “nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, and other qualified health-care professionals.”
In attending rallies for RHA last week, Cuomo said that the response from Senate Republicans has always been that there is no need for action because abortion rights were protected by the federal Roe v. Wade. Republicans have stopped using that as a reason for inaction. Instead some of them now criticize RHA as going too far. But most state senate Republicans, facing election this year, are staying silent on the issue.
Republican Sen. John Bonacic, who has voted against RHA, is retiring this year. Reproductive rights are likely to play a role in which candidate voters will choose to fill his seat. With a recent poll showing that 64% of U.S. residents support keeping the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and only 28% support overturning it, supporting a rollback of reproduction rights will not be popular, especially in a state as blue as New York.
Annie Rabbitt, the current Orange County clerk and a former member of the State Assembly, is running for the seat on the Republican line. Her current website doesn’t state a position on RHA, but in years past she has been opposed. In the past she called it a “radical scheme to roll back religious freedoms and expand New York Law to legalize late-term, partial birth abortions.”
Jen Metzer is also running for the seat and will first face off in a Democratic primary. She said in a statement, “New York’s antiquated laws offer no protection if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The RHA will modernize New York’s nearly 50-year-old statutes to ensure that the state treats abortion as a matter of public health, not as a criminal act. It passed the State Assembly by a 93-44 margin in this session, but the State Senate refused to act. Passage of the RHA will be a priority for me if elected in November.”
Metzger, who serves on the town council in Rosendale and is co-founder of Citizens for Local Power, is quoted as saying to Spectrum Local News, “It is absolutely critical at this time that we amend our antiquated laws in New York State and protect a woman’s right to choose.”
Pramilla Malick, an energy activist who has fought the Minisink compressor and the Competitive Power Ventures power plan, is running in the primary against Metzger. She gave The River Reporter a statement saying, “It is remarkable that a state like New York has not yet passed legislation to safeguard the basic reproductive rights of women. In 2016, I discussed the importance of codifying these rights in state law warning that politically driven changes in the Supreme Court were imminent. The passage of this bill was obstructed by political gamesmanship due to collusion between the leadership of both major parties. The bill will only be passed by electing people free of the influence of both major parties. When I am elected, there will be no more excuses, and I will make sure RHA is passed.”
As New York State Sen. Liz Krueger recently explained on WNYC (tinyurl.com/yd9lkqce), science has changed in the more than 50 years since state lawmakers passed the current law. Doctors can now evaluate the viability of a fetus more effectively than in the past, and also they can evaluate more effectively whether a woman is likely or not to survive giving birth. Doctors can make these determinations well into the third trimester of pregnancy. If that happens in New York State, there is no option for a late abortion, because state law prohibits it. That means the woman must fly to one of three states where late-term abortions are allowed and performed by a handful of doctors. Krueger said that in some of these situations, women have lost their lives, because they did not get to the doctor in time.
Cuomo has invited Republicans back to Albany to take a vote on RHA. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has said he is not necessarily opposed to calling the Senate back to session in September, but the caveat is that first, the governor, the Senate and the Assembly must reach agreement not only on abortion but on a number of issues, such as teacher evaluations, speed cameras and the number of charter schools in the state. This does not seem like a serious, good faith offer.
Now is the time to let your senator, or senatorial candidate know your feelings about Roe v. Wade and the Reproduction Health Act.