By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
NEW YORK — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that he would push to expand abortion rights in New York State as a central part of his political agenda for 2019.
With former presidential candidate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by his side at a press conference at Barnard College in Manhattan, Cuomo vowed to enshrine Roe v. Wade into the New York State constitution by passing what he has termed the “Reproductive Health Act.”
The bill, which he intends for the Democratic controlled state legislature to pass, would allow abortions for any reason during the third trimester of pregnancy right up to a mother’s due date.
Although Cuomo has pushed the bill in past legislative sessions, it had been blocked by the Republican controlled legislature. Cuomo says he is motivated to pass the legislation in the immediate future because he is convinced that newly appointed Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will vote to overturn Roe,the critical 1973 decision which enshrined abortion throughout the country.
If Roe were overturned, abortion law would be decided by each individual state.
Cuomo made the proposed legislation a central tenet of his gubernatorial reelection campaign. On Monday, he boasted “”We have led the way on women’s rights like no other state, period.”
In addition to removing any restrictions on abortion, the draft legislation would allow for non-doctors to perform abortions and would remove all criminal penalties for abortion, even if it were contrary to the mother’s choice, such as the intentional targeting of an unborn child in an act of violence. In addition, the legislation removes the current protections for infants accidentally born alive in the course of an abortion.
While Clinton lauded the legislation as part of the fight for women’s equality, Catholics in the state have protested the efforts noting that New York already is “the abortion capital of our nation.”
According to the New York State Catholic Conference, there is an average of 29.6 abortions for every 1,000 women reproductive age, which is twice the national average in the United States.
In New York City, nearly one in three pregnancies end in an abortion, with that number being even higher among African-Americans. State Senator Rubén Díaz, a Democratic legislator in the Bronx, has been one of the strongest opponents of abortion in the state, specifically criticizing what he has termed the targeting of African and Hispanic communities.
The New York State Catholic Conference has denounced the current legislation for what it has labeled as its extremism and said it “goes far beyond Roe v. Wade.”
In a flyer distributed on Monday, the Conference is calling on Catholics to combat the legislation through direct appeals to legislators, prayer, and support for crisis pregnancy centers and ministries that provide assistance to women who have had an abortion.
“Tragically, the political reality following the 2018 mid-term elections means that we are unlikely to defeat this measure in the State Legislature Governor Andrew Cuomo is a strong proponent of the bill, and has promised to sign it into law,” the flyer noted. “If the legislation is indeed enacted into law this year, we must do all we can to ensure that vulnerable women facing unplanned pregnancies do not avail themselves of it.”
Democrats in the state legislature have noted that they are seeking to pass the new legislation by January 22, which will mark the 46thanniversary of Roe v. Wade.
To date, an estimated 60 million abortions have taken place in the United States since that time.