Nearly three weeks after the state legislature dispersed after doing the bare minimum of the people's business, and just hours before President Donald Trump announces his choice to fill yet another vacancy on the Supreme Court, Governor Andrew Cuomo told Republicans in the State Senate they should come back to Albany and pass legislation that would shore up a woman's right to have an abortion in New York.
"They want to take us back to the dark days," Cuomo said of Trump and the conservative wing of the Supreme Court, which will have a firm 5-4 majority on the court if the president's nominee—which is expected to come from a list of ultra-conservative choices handed down by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, and who would likely vote to repeal Roe v. Wade—is ultimately confirmed.
"Reporters say, 'Why do you call them extreme conservatives?' One, they're extreme. Two, they're conservative. Hence, extreme conservatives," the governor told the crowd. "They want to take that ideology and impose it on us."
New York's current law legalizing abortion was passed in 1970, three years before the Roe decision, and does not adequately protect providers who perform abortions after 24 weeks. The Reproductive Health Act, which has passed the State Assembly, would patch up the 1970 legislation and also remove abortion from New York's penal code, enshrining it as a lawful medical procedure.
The law has made it through the State Assembly for years, but has failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, which currently has a razor-thin majority thanks to Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder.
"We need the New York State Senate to come back to Albany," Cuomo told the crowd. "The law is passed, it is sitting there by the Assembly, we need them to come back today and pass that law, and we need them to pass that law now, before the worst happens."
Cuomo vowed consequences for Senate Republicans if they fail to come back and pass it.
"You either come back and protect a woman's right to choose and respect a woman's reproductive health rights, or the voters of this state are going to say to you in November, 'You're with Trump? Well you're fired from the New York State Senate.'"
Asked about the governor's comments, Candice Giove, a spokesperson for the Republican majority in the State Senate, said in a statement, "Women's health issues deserve more than political stunts with stolen one-liners from The Apprentice."
"Governor Cuomo, a constant absentee in Albany, refuses to engage with people who have valid concerns regarding the Reproductive Health Act including non doctors performing abortions or watering down criminal charges faced if an abuser harms a pregnant women," Giove said. "He's so frightened of Cynthia Nixon that he's drinking the political Kool-Aid served by radicals and socialists who now control the Democratic Party."
State Senator Jeff Klein, one of the handful of Democrats who until this spring used to caucus with Republicans as part of the Independent Democratic Conference, has signaled that he would now support the legislation.
This is a curious statement as Mr. Klein's former group, the Independent Democratic Conference, long collaborated with a @NYSenate GOP majority which blocked consideration of a bill to codify Roe v. Wade. https://t.co/dM3q9y7ZOe
— Jesse McKinley (@jessemckinley) July 9, 2018
At a press conference earlier on Monday, Nixon criticized the governor for not offering more support to legislation that would bolster abortion rights sooner. In 2016, instead of throwing the weight of his office behind getting the Reproductive Health Act passed in the Senate, which was still controlled by the group of Republicans (and their Democratic allies) that Cuomo abetted for years, the governor announced that he wanted to pass a constitutional amendment to codify abortion rights, which would have required a lengthy constitutional convention.
“Cynically, he did it so we wouldn’t have to deal with the current legislation and he puts it off for two years or more,” Doug Muzzio, a professor of political science at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, said of Cuomo's constitutional amendment announcement at the time. “It gives him kudos for his stand, but it’s not going to happen.”
“He’s put his finger in the wind and realized too late that if one is going to call oneself a progressive one has to fight like a progressive,” Nixon said on Monday, according to the Daily News.
Cuomo did not use his executive power to order legislators back to Albany to tackle reproductive rights in an extraordinary session, as he did last year when he sent them back to address mayoral control of schools. A spokesman for the governor did not say why this was.
"Bringing us back isn't getting us the bill," said Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger, the primary sponsor of the legislation in that body. "The way you get it passed is quite simple: you get more Democrats in the Senate, so that we are the majority." Krueger added that may be as soon as January.
"God told me I was a feminist when he gave me three daughters," Cuomo told the crowd on Tuesday.