Last week, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and other pro-life allies faced a near-crisis in the New York State Senate, as Senate Democrats attempted to force votes on two pro-abortion bills.
Which two pro-abortion bills, you ask? The abortion pill insurance mandate known as the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA) (A.9957-Cahill) and—worse yet—the cruel, barbaric abortion expansion proposal known as the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) (S.2796-Krueger/A.1748-Glick).
At this point, NYCF has spent more than a decade fighting various abortion expansion proposals in Albany. In April 2007, Gov. Eliot Spitzer introduced the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act (RHAPP), declaring that “‘New York State [would] continue to be a beacon of civil rights and protection of women’s rights.’” In 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo combined an abortion expansion bill with nine other bills to form a Women’s Equality Act (WEA) and demanded that the Legislature vote for or against the entire package; Senate Republicans refused, opting instead to pass the non-abortion-related bills individually. On June 21, 2013, the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) delayed the start of that day’s session in the hope that pro-life Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn)—an Orthodox Jew—would leave Albany to travel home before sundown for Sabbath observance. Sen. Felder’s departure could have left Senate Republicans without sufficient votes to prevent the IDC from forcing a vote on abortion expansion. When Sen. Felder didn’t leave, the IDC convened that day’s session, offered abortion expansion as a hostile amendment to another bill, and were voted down by a slender margin of 32-31.
On May 30, 2018, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and several of her colleagues held a press conference with abortion advocates to announce that the Democratic Conference intended to force a floor vote on the RHA and the CCCA that day. Currently, Senate Republicans hold a 32-31 majority in the Senate because Sen. Felder—an enrolled Democrat—caucuses with them. However, Republican Sen. Tom Croci (R-Islip) has accepted an active duty assignment from the U.S. Navy and was not in Albany last week. Without Sen. Croci, the Senate is evenly split. Furthermore, as President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has the authority to cast tiebreaking votes on the Senate floor (although there is debate about whether that authority extends to procedural votes). The absence of Sen. Croci made the Democrats’ threats about forcing votes on the Senate floor much more credible than they would otherwise have been.
When the Senate convened later that day, Senate Democrats were poised to attempt to force votes on the RHA and the CCCA. Furthermore, Lt. Gov. Hochul was nearby and available to attempt to cast a tiebreaking vote. Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-DeWitt) responded to the situation by laying aside the bills that were scheduled to be considered that day, and the Senate adjourned without voting on any legislation. On May 31, Senate Democrats—angered at the Republicans’ refusal to allow votes on the two pro-abortion bills—retaliated by voting down Bill S.4279-Ranzenhofer, which relates to traumatic brain injuries in children. Bill S.4279 had received unanimous Democratic support in the Senate Education Committee earlier this year. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-East Northport, accused the Democrats of “playing…shameless games with children’s lives” by defeating Bill S.4279. Senate Democrats continued their obstructionism by refusing to allow votes on several other bills. Thus, the Senate adjourned again and is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, June 3.
According to State of Politics, Lt. Gov. Hochul stated that both she and Gov. Cuomo were “‘offended’” by Senate Republicans’ actions on May 31. Lt. Gov. Hochul added that it is “‘vitally important’” for the Senate to vote on “‘legislation that simply says we should codify Roe v. Wade.’” Abortion expansion supporters have been using the “codify Roe v. Wade” rhetoric for years. It is utterly dishonest. The RHA would expand abortion access in New York by empowering non-physicians to perform surgical abortions. As if that were not enough, the RHA would withdraw legal protection from viable infants born alive following attempted abortions, opening the door to the appalling possibility that they could be denied treatment, discarded, or even put to death. Roe v. Wade does not require either of these provisions.
Following the May 31 Senate session, the RHA was considered in the Senate Health Committee. (Typically, bills are considered in one or more committees before coming to the Senate floor for a vote.) The Committee’s consideration of the RHA was not connected to Senate Democrats’ procedural shenanigans earlier in the day. Thankfully, the bill was defeated by the Committee, 9-8. Sens. Simcha Felder, Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn), Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo), Bill Larkin (R-Cornwall-on-Hudson), Betty Little (R-Queensbury), Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown), Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton), and James Seward (R-Milford) voted against the RHA. Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers), Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), Roxanne Persaud (D-Brooklyn), Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens), and David Valesky (D-Oneida) voted in favor of abortion expansion. The defeat of the RHA in committee means that the bill will not advance any further through the legislative process this year unless Democrats manage to force a floor vote on it. NYCF thanks the nine senators who voted for life.
While NYCF is grateful that abortion expansion did not receive a vote on the Senate floor last week, we remain concerned about the tenuous state of affairs in the Senate. At this writing, it is not clear whether Sen. Croci will be in Albany for the remaining weeks of the legislative session. If Sen. Croci is not available, the Democrats’ pro-abortion obstructionism may continue. We exhort the Senate Republicans to stand their ground in opposition to abortion expansion. Please keep them in your prayers.
NYCF encourages its readers to contact their state senator via our Legislative Action Center and urge their representative to oppose the Abortion Expansion Act (S.2796-Krueger).
UPDATE: On Thursday, June 21, in the wee hours of the morning, the New York State Senate adjourned. That adjournment marked the end of the 2018 regular legislative session in Albany. Thankfully, Senate Republicans were able to hold the line and prevent a forced vote on abortion expansion.