New York Governor Proposes Legislation Updating State's Abortion Law

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 26, 2007

More good news from New York this week. The New York Times reports on Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to introduce legislation overhauling the state’s “pioneering but antiquated abortion law.”

In 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, New York legalized abortion, making it the second state — after Hawaii — to do so and the first to allow abortions for out-of-state residents.

Danny Hakim writes that the governor’s proposal “could take on much broader significance if the Supreme Court ever returns abortion law to the discretion of the states. Still, it is far from certain that the legislation will pass the Republican-led State Senate.” Hakim continues:

Mr. Spitzer’s bill, the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, would update current law, which, for example, does not include a provision allowing for abortions late in pregnancies to protect a woman’s health. New York state laws on the books also treat abortion as a homicide, but with broad exceptions that allow the procedure in many cases.

Mr. Spitzer’s proposal would remove abortion from criminal statutes and make it a matter of professional and medical discretion. It would also repeal an old statute “that criminalizes, among other things, providing nonprescription contraception to minors,” according to the governor’s office.

“Even if the Supreme Court does not understand the law, we do,” Mr. Spitzer said, appearing briefly at a Manhattan luncheon held by Naral Pro-Choice New York. “New York State will continue to be a beacon of civil rights and protection of women’s rights.”

And in case anyone not familiar with New York politics is wondering whether Spitzer will ever pull a Romney, all signs point to No … including this tidbit:

The issue is clearly a personal one for the governor. His mother, Anne, is a board member of a foundation affiliated with Naral and received a lifetime achievement award at the luncheon.

Plus: Since we’re talking about politicians’ support for reproductive rights, check out this L.A. Times story, “Romney Isn’t the First to Flip on Abortion.” Janet Hook writes:

As the history of abortion maneuvers shows, voters have come to accept some changes of heart as sincere and durable. Reagan, for example, eventually became a hero of anti-abortion activists even though, as California governor, he signed a law vastly expanding legal abortion.

But at other times, voters have viewed abortion converts — whether they shifted to favor or oppose abortion rights — as lacking commitment on a fundamental issue. Gephardt abandoned a measure significantly restricting abortion, and that move endeared him to Democratic Party activists just before he ran for the 1988 presidential nomination. But the switch contributed to an unflattering view of him as a political opportunist without firm principles, which weakened him as a candidate.

A similar image dogged Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, as he had also switched from a conservative to a liberal position on abortion and other issues. That is a cautionary tale for Romney. His abortion conversion faces especially deep skepticism because it is one of many issues — including gay rights and gun control — where he seems to have been inconsistent.

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