Bench Memos

Andrew Cuomo Can Never Have Too Many Abortions

In a brazen push to make his state even more decisively the abortion capital of the United States, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is trying to ram through the legislature, before its June 20 adjournment, a radical expansion of the abortion license in the provisions of his “Women’s Equality Act.”

As my Witherspoon Institute colleague Gabrielle Speach, and co-author and practicing physician Elissa Sanchez-Speach, write today at Public Discourse, Gov. Cuomo’s bill is an open invitation to the Kermit Gosnells of the abortion trade to move to New York and ratchet up their performance of late-term abortions on viable children.  These abortions are almost never necessary for the sake of a woman’s life or health–one might almost strike the “almost” from that statement, since it is hard to envision a “necessary” case at all–and could instead be occasions for the saving of two lives, the mother’s and the child’s.

Gov. Cuomo is in a war of words with the shepherd of the Church to which he putatively belongs, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York.  Dolan and all the bishops of the state have joined in a statement that staunchly opposes the abortion provision in the bill because it “would ease restrictions in state law on late-term abortion and runs the serious risk of broadly expanding abortion access at all stages of gestation.”  Moreover, the bill would, the bishops say, “repeal the portion of the penal law that governs abortion policy, opening the door for non-doctors to perform abortions and potentially decriminalizing even forced or coerced abortions.”

The governor’s response to these reasonable criticisms is to denounce opponents as “extremists.”  When questioned about the bishops’ opposition, the governor is reported to have said, “Their point is that they oppose abortion and think there are too many abortions. I understand that position, but I disagree with it.”

Let that sink in for a moment.  Forget about Bill Clinton’s famous (but disingenuous) “safe, legal, and rare.”  Andrew Cuomo, whose state has an abortion rate nearly twice the national average, thinks there are not now too many abortions on his watch.  The only reason to pass his bill is because you want more abortions, more easily obtained, later in pregnancy.

The bishops’ concern about the repeal of penal law provisions on abortion–and the dangers that such repeal opens up–is a valid one.  Cuomo’s bill, which would eliminate all meaningful restrictions on post-viability abortions in New York, also contains this language:

Subdivisions two and three of section 125.05, subdivision two of section 125.15, subdivision three of section 125.20 and sections 125.40, 125.45, 125.50, 125.55 and 125.60 of the penal law are hereby repealed to the extent that they are inconsistent with this section.

What is the import of all this?  You can find out by going to Article 125 of the New York Penal Law, “Homicide, Abortion and Related Offenses.”  Check out the sections and subdivisions named in the governor’s bill.  They constitute essentially the entirety of New York’s present statutory restrictions on abortion.  Then the question becomes, what does it mean to say they are all “hereby repealed to the extent that they are inconsistent” with Cuomo’s bill?  This does not appear on its face to be an outright repeal with the stroke of a pen.  Only those existing provisions found (by a judge?) to be “inconsistent” with the new bill would be considered repealed.  But read the existing provisions, which ban late-term abortions and criminalize acts that cause the deaths of viable unborn children.  Would any of them survive the hostile scrutiny of a typical liberal judge?  Not on your life.  Or rather, not on the nearest unborn baby’s life.

So it is fair to say that New York’s whole abortion law is wiped off the slate and replaced with Cuomo’s bland statement that “[t]he state shall not deny a women’s [sic] right to obtain an abortion as established by the United States Supreme Court in the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.”  In fact, there appears to be nothing banned, not a single abortion performed by anyone that is prohibited or restricted in any way, by the governor’s bill.

And Andrew Cuomo has the gall to label other people “extremists.”


Matthew J. Franck — Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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