Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill guaranteeing abortion rights that would align New York and U.S. law was killed in the senate after a group of breakaway Democrats co-leading the chamber dropped it.
The Independent Democratic Conference, a group of four Democrats who run the senate with Republicans, introduced nine of Cuomo’s 10 Women’s Equality Agenda measures yesterday, including enhanced penalties for human traffickers and increased legal damages for women who aren’t paid equally. They left out the governor’s abortion plank.
The measure would have decriminalized abortions after 24 weeks when a woman’s health -- not just her life -- were at risk. Cuomo, a 55-year-old Democrat and potential presidential candidate in 2016, said it would protect women if the U.S. Supreme Court rolls back its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the right.
“I think it’s a mistake for the IDC, who are theoretically Democrats,” Cuomo said today in a radio interview. “This is going to be an electoral decision, and it’s going to be in the re-election campaigns of these senators.”
Jeff Klein, the Bronx Democrat who leads the breakaway Democrats, said his group supports abortion rights but didn’t want to allow a vote on a bill that would fail.
“This legislative process is the art of negotiation,” Klein said today in an e-mailed statement. “The IDC would like nothing more than to bring this provision to the floor, but the votes just are not there.”
The other measures will come up for a vote as soon as June 19, a day before the legislative session in Albany ends. Cuomo has pitched a vote on the bill as a way for residents to know where their elected officials stand on abortion.
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 wanted to take New York in the opposite direction.
Republicans oppose Cuomo’s move. In November, Democrats won a senate majority for the first time since 2008, yet the Independent Democratic Conference broke away to ally with Republicans, letting that party continue to hold sway. Under legislative rules, the IDC and Republicans must agree on which bills come up for a vote.
More than half, or 51 percent, of Republicans favored abortion rights in a March poll of registered voters by Siena 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, according to Bruce Gyory, who teaches politics at the State University of New York at Albany.
Kelly Cummings, a spokeswoman for Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who co-leads the senate, has called the abortion measure an “unnecessary and purely political maneuver.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Freeman Klopott in Albany, New York, at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com