Editorial

It’s time for Gov. Cuomo to lead on protecting abortion rights

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It’s time for Gov. Cuomo to lead on protecting abortion rights

At this point, it seems like we all can agree on one thing: It can happen here.

New York may be Democratic blue, but a national government that’s solidly red can–and will–bring the fight for our personal liberty to our doorstep.

The election of Donald Trump is a new kind of disaster, not simply because of the gallery of fools and gargoyles he has named to his cabinet. (Though if he does indeed pick ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State, we may have to find new adjectives for “disaster.”) And Trump’s a calamity not only because of the forces of intolerance and hate his election has empowered.

The real, long-term horror is the reams of bad legislation that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will send to President Trump for his signature. Legislation that may take decades to undo.

While the more pragmatic McConnell may be somewhat of a break on Ryan and the raging ideologues of the Republican House–i.e., Social Security may not be completely gutted, some form of Medicare may survive–the hardcore wing of the Republican Party wants action on a wide range of social issues. And near the top of the list? The end of women’s autonomy over their own bodies.

Exhibit A:

The Ohio legislature just passed two bills placing new restrictions on abortion. One is merely a disaster: It would prohibit all abortions after twenty weeks, with no exception for rape or incest.

This is the moment in this discussion when, in normal times, it would have been considered “reasonable” to point out that late-term abortions are rare and almost exclusively obtained for medical reasons–and usually at heart-wrenching cost to the women and families involved. If you recall, however, when this subject came up in one of this year’s presidential debates, Secretary Clinton gave a detailed, reasonable answer on this subject–and candidate Trump stood there and bullshitted, his predictably rambling, vague answer the rhetorical equivalent of sticking his stubby little fingers in his ears and intoning, “la la la la la.”

This is no time to be “reasonable,” so we’re skipping that part.

Back to Ohio.

The second bill awaiting a signature from Gov. John Kasich is a so-called “heartbeat bill,” which is a genuinely radical, vicious piece of legislation. It was described by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “one of the country’s most-restrictive abortion laws, [one] that almost certainly violates current constitutional standards.” This bill bans abortions from the moment a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks–which is before some women are even aware that they are pregnant. And, again, there is no exception made for cases of rape or incest.

The Enquirer also reported that the Republican president of Ohio’s Senate had no plans to push the heartbeat bill until emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. The law, you see, will certainly be challenged in court and eventually struck down under current Supreme Court guidelines. However, because Trump has promised to nominate the kind of Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Ohio Republican leader decided to go all in on this anti-woman bill.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, in addition to being a homophobe, signed, as governor of Indiana, every piece of anti-abortion legislation that crossed his desk. One would be a fool not to imagine that he will be a strong voice for anti-women bills in the Trump administration.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been positioning himself as a stalwart liberal force against Trumpism. This is a chance for him to be a national leader on the issue of women’s autonomy, which not only includes choice but also contraception.

He has some history here.

In 2013, Gov. Cuomo proposed a Women’s Equality Agenda in his State of the State address. This plan, if enacted in full, would have strengthened laws requiring equal pay for equal work, strengthened workplace laws related to sexual harassment, and strengthened access to abortion in line with Roe v. Wade.

Parts of this agenda were enacted–but not the part regarding the right to abortion. The choice bill, in fact, never made it to the Senate for a vote; an amendment to another bill that contained the choice provisions was defeated in the state Senate by two votes.

It’s time for Gov. Cuomo to take the lead and reintroduce this legislation and get his allies in the Senate–both Republican and Independent Democrat–to pass it.

It’s time for New York to lead.

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