New York abortion laws take center stage in gubernatorial debate

Image courtesy of Spectrum News

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, Spectrum News held a debate for New York governor, hosted by “Inside City Hall” host Errol Louis and “Capital Tonight” host Susan Arbetter.

The debate between Gov. Kathy Hochul and Republican challenger Lee Zeldin was held in the Schimmel Theater at Pace University in lower Manhattan.

A significant portion of the hour-long debate focused on the topic of abortion, an issue that Democratic candidates have been using to motivate their base this fall, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. A Siena College poll of likely New York voters in September found that New Yorkers continue to oppose the Dobbs decision overturning Roe, 67-27 percent. Similarly, 72 percent said abortion should be always or mostly legal, compared to 21 percent who say it should be mostly or always illegal.

Before the debate started, Hochul brought up the issue of abortion in her opening statement. She said, “The other thing I have to protect is your safety, but also your fundamental rights. Your fundamental rights to be safe, but also to choose what you want done with your body. Particularly, this message is for women.”

Arbetter asked Hochul, “You say that you support a woman’s right to choose and make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraception. Is there any restrictions around abortion that you would approve of?”

Hochul responded, “What we have in New York state is simply a codification of Roe v. Wade. What has been out there before the Supreme Court undid 50 years of progress for women, so women like myself and my daughter would have a right, but my granddaughter does not have the same rights I had.”

Hochul said that nothing has changed in New York after the Dobbs decision because she is the governor and made sure women would stay safe.

“Women need to know that that’s on the ballot this November,” the governor said.

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
On October 12, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul announces $13.4 million awarded in the second round of the Abortion Provider Support Fund to 37 providers, covering 64 clinical sites to further expand access to abortion services in New York.

Arbetter asked Zeldin, “Polls show that, by large majorities, New Yorkers support the right to have an abortion, something that you do not support. You said that you won’t change the state law but what if a Republican Legislature did change the abortion law? Would you sign a bill into law?”

Zeldin responded, “First of all, there’s not going to be a Republican Legislature in January and there’s less than a 0 percent chance that Carl Heastie, the speaker of the Assembly, is going to send me a bill that’s rolling back to law in 2019.”

Zeldin continued, saying that Hochul’s answer was disingenuous and that she did not answer the question that was asked. He said, “When we woke up the day after the Dobb’s decision, the law in New York was exactly the same as it was the day before and I’m not going to change that.”

Arbetter also asked Zeldin, “You have not committed to maintaining state funding for Planned Parenthood. Why not when, for many women in our state, Planned Parenthood is a trusted service for health care?”

Zeldin answered, “I would be working with the Legislature and I’m sure Carl Heastie will come to the table, wanting a funding level for whatever his priorities might be across the board on all sorts of different issues.”

Zeldin then stated that, from what he has heard, New Yorkers don’t want their tax dollars funding abortions for people who “live 1,500 miles away from here.” Zeldin said that “we ultimately have to listen to what the New Yorkers want.”

Hochul responded by stating Zeldin’s name is, as of right now, on a bill called “Life Begins at Conception.” 

“I don’t know how you think that people aren’t going to notice your past record and the fact that your name was on the amicus brief in support of a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade the day after it happened,” Hochul said. “You applauded and said, ‘what a great victory for life.’ That wasn’t that long ago, Lee. People are paying attention.”

As the debate drew to a close, Hochul ended with a statement in response to an answer Zeldin had about gun regulations, saying, “What changed in 108 years? Nothing other than the Donald Trump appointees to the United States Supreme Court. The same ones who overturned your right to have an abortion.”

Early voting is now open in New York until November 6. Election Day is Nov. 8.