ALBANY — Because President-elect Donald Trump has said he would nominate a Supreme Court justice opposed to abortion rights, Democratic lawmakers say a bill in New York to codify the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is building an urgency for the coming legislative session.
The state bill sponsored by Assemb. Deborah J. Glick (D-Manhattan) and Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers would protect the right to late-term abortions and will be reintroduced to the Legislature within days, Glick said.
She and a coalition of women legislators and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have said that current state law, adopted before Roe v. Wade, doesn’t afford all the rights granted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate’s longtime Republican majority, with its narrow control of the chamber uncertain for 2017, has twice blocked the state measure. However, the argument that many legislators used for years to avoid a politically dicey vote in the Senate — that Roe v. Wade wasn’t threatened — may no longer be true.
“Some Republicans in the Senate, and certainly some Republicans in this chamber, argued that, ‘What’s the need?’ Well, now there is a need,” Glick said in an interview. “Now is the time for Democrats to unite.”
Glick said Trump makes the future of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide even more uncertain. While she said many Republicans have been reluctant to try to dismantle Roe v. Wade, Trump used it to court what became an important evangelical vote for him. He has said he hopes to overturn the decision and return the abortion question to states.
“With the upcoming Trump presidency and the possibility of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, the need for New York to take real steps to guarantee women’s rights has never been more pressing,” Stewart-Cousins said Thursday.
Cuomo also pressed to update New York’s outdated law.
“Now that no one is under the delusion that protecting the right to choose is purely a federal issue, we urge our partners in government to join us and take action,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever.
Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif declined to comment on the Glick bill Thursday.
The fate of the bill could hinge on control of the State Senate, which may be determined by the outcome of a Long Island race that will be decided by the count of absentee ballots in the coming two weeks. A win by Democratic challenger John Brooks of Seaford over Republican state Sen. Michael Venditto of Massapequa could give Democrats their 32nd vote and control of the 63-seat Senate.
Even if Brooks wins, however, Democrats won’t necessarily seize the majority. The Independent Democratic Conference, a seven-member independent conference that has shared power with Republicans, would have to join or align with the mainline Democrats from which they broke away in 2012. The IDC isn’t saying what its role will be in 2017.
Even if Democrats unite, there is no guarantee the abortion bill would be gain the necessary Senate approval. Several conservative Democrats, including state Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn who sits with the Republican conference, and state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx), a conservative minister, have opposed the bill.