Cuomo’s “Abortion Expansion Act”

Barely two weeks before the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York screamed four times during his State of the State Address:  “It’s her body; it’s her choice!” and promised to press for passage of the Reproductive Health Act that some are calling the Abortion Expansion Act.

Frankly, what the governor hopes to achieve is mind boggling, particularly since New York has had an abortion law on the books since 1970 – three years before Roe – and has held the grim distinction for decades as the abortion capital of the nation.

There are more abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44 in New York than any other state in the nation. 

Total Abortions vs. Rate per Thousand Women, 15-44 years

U.S.A. Rate
N.Y. Rate

In New York City, where most of the state’s abortions are performed, the Health Department has reported that in 2009 there were 121,745 births and 80,629 abortions. In other words, 40 percent of all pregnancies in New York City were terminated.  And in addition:  the abortion rate in NYC for African-Americans is 60 percent, for Hispanics 41 percent – and 45 percent of births happen out of wedlock.

Despite these gruesome statistics, the Reproductive Health Act could revise the state abortion law by repealing the 24-week limit and permitting late-term abortions when the mother’s health is in danger or if the fetus is not viable.

In determining a mother’s health, various factors that could be considered include age, emotional maturity, and economic and social status.  Under these terms, an abortion would essentially be permissible at any time for almost any reason.

Licensed healthcare practitioners, not just licensed physicians, could also be permitted to perform abortions.  “This dangerous and extreme change,” the New York Catholic Conference has observed, “clearly puts women’s health at risk and mirrors a national abortion strategy to permit non-doctors to perform abortions due to the declining numbers of physicians willing to do so.”

         Andrew M. Cuomo

Abortion could be codified as a “fundamental right of privacy” – a classification even the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected.  New York could not authorize regulations that would permit parental consent or notification, and it could not limit or abolish taxpayer-funded abortions.

New York’s abortion law could also be reclassified.  Instead of being part of the state’s penal code, it could come under public health laws.

The Catholic Conference has publicly stated that such a proposal is “unnecessary, extreme and dangerous” and would endanger the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.  The limited conscience protection is ambiguous.  It does not offer protection for “institutional providers such as religious hospitals and other agencies that do not wish to be involved with abortion.” There would be no discrimination against a person’s fundamental right to an abortion in the “provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.” This could be interpreted to mean that state regulators could insist that state-licensed or funded health institutions make available abortion procedures.

Andrew Cuomo, who has moved to the far left of the political spectrum as his attention has turned to the national stage, wants to impose his pro-abortion views on everyone.  This might even be too much for his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, who claimed during his tenure that while he was personally opposed to abortion, as a public official it would be wrong to impose his view on all New Yorkers.

A recent poll commissioned by the Chiaroscuro Foundation and performed by pollster John McLaughlin, indicates that in his quest to please the NARAL crowd, Cuomo is pushing the envelope too far.

Here’s what the survey revealed: 

  • 80 percent oppose unlimited abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy;
  • 75 percent oppose permitting “licensed health care practitioners” from performing abortions;
  • 89 percent oppose abortions for reducing twins or triplets to a single child;
  • 92 percent oppose abortion for sex selection;
  • 87 percent favor giving pregnant women options information before making a decision;
  • 78 percent approve a 24-hour waiting period;
  • 76 percent approve parental notification for minors seeking abortions;
  • 68 percent favor giving women who carry their pregnancy to term free medical care.

It is pretty amazing that, even in a state as dark blue as New York, citizens believe Cuomo’s support of abortion expansion is way out of the political mainstream.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has said that he “shivers” over the state’s chilling abortion statistics, has been leading the charge against abortion expansion plans:  “I am hard pressed to think of a piece of legislation that is less needed or more harmful than this one. . . .It’s as though, in [lawmakers’] minds our state motto ‘Excelsior’ (Ever Upward) applies to the abortion rate.”

Let’s hope opponents who held a protest march on Tuesday at the State Capitol in Albany, learned something from their botched attempt to stop same-sex marriage will now use their clout more effectively to bottle up or kill Cuomo’s plans.


George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. His most recent book is Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.