Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Poughkeepsie Wednesday to call on the State Senate to pass a state law to codify Roe v. Wade and criticize the Trump administration’s policies. The specific legislation is called the New York Reproductive Health Act, which has been passed numerous times by the State Assembly but has stalled in the Senate. Cuomo’s statements came two days after the announcement by President Trump of the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, which sparked fears among pro-choice groups that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide, would be weakened or overturned.
“Today my friends, the fight is on in a way it has never been,” said Cuomo. The governor said the Roe v. Wade decision goes further than current New York State law in protecting a woman’s right to choose.
The crowd assembled at the Poughkeepsie Tennis Club included many members and supporters of Planned Parenthood, who chanted “Stand up, fight back!” several times during the governor’s speech. Outside, a couple dozen protesters carrying pro-life signs picketed in front of the building and at the parking lot entrance.
Cuomo said the elevation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would represent the fulfillment of an “extreme conservative” agenda. He said those who say they support limited government and oppose judicial activism while wanting the court overturn Roe v. Wade are hypocritical because laws banning abortion impose the morality of pro-life Americans onto the private health-care decisions of all.
The governor called on the State Senate to codify Roe v. Wade as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of a “gap” in protections for a woman’s right to choose. “Either you come back and do that or you are anti-choice,” said Cuomo. He also said he would sue if Roe v. Wade were overturned, though he didn’t say who he’d be suing. Conservative media jumped on the comment, assuming Cuomo meant he would sue the Supreme Court, and ridiculing the former state attorney general for ignorance of constitutional law and standing.
Cuomo didn’t constrain his comments to the abortion question, attacking the Trump administration and congressional Republicans on a host of issues. He said he’s been in a “constant state of shock” every day for the last year and half, and that the administration’s actions, while chaotic, represent the intentional execution of a “repugnant” set of policies. He mentioned the separation of migrant families at the border as an example of a disorganized policy that may have been deliberately engineered as such to cause the most emotional pain and act as a deterrent. Cuomo ticked off a list of congressional shortcomings which he compared favorably with New York State laws: unwillingness to pass gun control (NY SAFE Act), lack of action on sexual harassment and other issues sparked by the @MeToo movement (New York toughened laws on sexual harassment recently), and failure to raise the minimum wage (New York raised to $15/hr).