Quite a few eyebrows were raised earlier this week when NARAL NY announced its endorsements, and not a single incumbent Democratic Senator was on the list, even though Democrats hold only a slight advantage in the upper chamber in Albany and are in danger of losing control to the Republicans.
There are, of course, Democratic Senators who qualfiy as flag-waving pro-choicers, but NARAL is angry–angry that the Reproductive Health Act has not yet come to the floor for a vote.
That bill would place the right to an abortion under health care law instead of under criminal law, which is where it is currently situated in the state’s law books. The bill is seen as all but certain to pass the Assembly, but Senate Democrats say they don’t have the votes to send it to the governor’s desk.
“We think we have the votes,” said NARAL Pro-Choice NY spokesperson Samantha Levine. “We have had conversations about it. Who on the Senate side has had those conversations?”
According to an Albany insider, four Democrats–Bill Stachowski, Darrel Aubertine, Rev. Ruben Diaz, and George Onorato–are against the legislation. Levine declined to name the four Republicans that NARAL has lined up in support of the legislation, and Democrats doubt that there really are any.
“Many of us don’t think [bringing the bill to the floor] is a perfect strategy, because New York State is a pro-choice state and I don’t want that bill to fail on the floor of the Senate,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, a staunchly pro-choice Senator from the east side of Manhattan. “I think it would be a terrible precedent with a Democratic Senator, a Democratic Assembly, a Democratic governor, to have a wonderful reproductive rights bill defeated.”
If the bill were defeated, Krueger said, “The anti-choice movement would go crazy over reproductive rights failing in New York State. It would be a voting down of rights that already exist in New York.”
Krueger said that NARAL’s efforts would be better spent helping to elect more Democrats, which would insure the bill’s passage.
“I believe that if in 2010 we all work together to elect what I call more and better Democrats we will pass this bill in 2011.”
NARAL isn’t having it though, saying that they have heard the line about electing more Democrats before.
“That’s what we have been told the last two cycles, and that’s what we did,” Levine. “We had pro-choice leadership the last two years. How much longer do the women of this state have to wait?”
It is unclear how much difference NARAL’s lack of support will have in Democratic efforts to hold on to the Senate. NARAL says they have staffed campaigns in swing districts that have provided the margin of victory, but Democrats point out that pro-choice voters are still likely to support them.
Levine said that the organization may make another round of endorsements later in the cycle.