Editor's Note: With 43 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!
Today, we turn to abortion in PolicyMic's own backyard — New York.
A 2005 New York magazine article called New York, and New York City particularly, “the Abortion Capital of America.” New York, since before Roe v. Wade, is the place to go for women seeking abortions: public funding, no parental involvement, no waiting period, no informed consent and no mandatory ultrasounds. A 2011 New York Times article cited a health department report that put the New York City abortion rate at 40% and makes the probably-legitimate claim: “Just try to get elected mayor of New York without demonstrating clear support for abortion rights.”
But what about the rest of the state?
New York statutes define a “justifiable abortional act” as any performed by a physician either within twenty-four weeks of conception or “under a reasonable belief that such is necessary to preserve her life”, or by herself under the same requirements (less than twenty four weeks or under advice from a physician). But outside of the New York Metropolitan area, the state gets pretty rural pretty quickly: it is thanks to the millions upon millions of Democratic voters in the five boroughs that New York is so blue.
The rest of the state is kind of purple. In February in New York’s 26th district, nestled between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, Democratic Representative Kathy Hochul was booed at a town hall meeting in her own district for supporting the original Obamacare plan, in which all employers, including religiously-affiliated ones, were required to provide full insurance coverage for contraception. Such vitriol is unfortunately not new: a doctor who provided abortion services was shot by a sniper in 1998 in his home in Amherst, outside of Buffalo.
Despite these and other attacks, New York’s abortion laws have become no more restrictive. In 2008, former Governor Eliot Spitzer even pushed legislation to declare abortion a fundamental right for women.
Assuming New York’s election results come as predicted, and New Yorkers (even Republicans) remain New Yorkers, New York will remain the abortion capital of the country. New York politicians, both Democrat and Republican, pro- and anti-choice, found common ground in criticizing Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment. Unsurprising, really, considering New York considers itself the fifth-least conservative state in the country.
Prior to the election, Republicans control the State Senate by a slim margin, and Democrats the State House by a larger margin, almost two-to-one. The balance of power in the State Senate could change, as a consequence of 2010 redistricting and due to the fact that two of the Republican incumbents are retiring. In the 150-member State House, only 18 representatives are not seeking re-election (ten Republicans and eight Democrats), so the blue control here is unlikely to shift.
On the national stage, the New York Representatives to the U.S. Congress are nearly two-thirds Democratic. Despite some redistricting, with more than twenty incumbents running for twenty-seven seats, it is unlikely to change the overall Democratic influence of (metropolitan) New York in Washington.