Though abortion is rarely a county issue – the major exception recently in Westchester being legislation on clinic access – Noam Bramson, the Democrat challenging County Executive Rob Astorino, has made it a major part of his campaign and a central part of his argument that Astorino is too conservative for Westchester.
And Astorino has begun rising to the bait, putting his wife in a campaign ad saying the issue has nothing to do with being county executive and running others with women telling Bramson he should be “ashamed.” Now part of the conversation has turned to each side’s true position on the divisive issue.
In a recent interview, Astorino accused Bramson of supporting abortion through nine months without restriction because of his support of the abortion plank of the 10-point Women’s Equality Act. The act was considered by the state Legislature this year but died when the Senate failed to pass the abortion provision. Opponents of the law, including the New York State Catholic Conference, have said allowing abortions to protect the health of the mother after 24 weeks, as the legislation would have done, creates too broad an exception because health is undefined.
Astorino equated Bramson’s position with infanticide.
“To me that’s outrageous,” he said.
The Bramson campaign said Astorino’s statement insults the large majority of his constituents who supported the law’s exception for the health of the mother.
“This disgusting and inflammatory statement from Republican Rob Astorino brands the overwhelming majority of his constituents as supporters of ‘infanticide,’” said his campaign spokesman, Barry Caro. “His statement makes clear that he doesn’t respect the views of the vast majority of the people living in Westchester County, who support the exact language of the Women’s Equality Act.”
The current New York abortion law, which is in the penal code, allows abortion up to 24 weeks or to protect the mother’s life. Roe v. Wade superseded the law, requiring an exception for the health of the mother. The new law would have codified that language, which proponents said was necessary in case Roe was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Catholic Conference’s position was that the bill expanded the right to abortion and went well beyond Roe, establishing it as a fundamental right not subject to regulation.
In the interview with The Journal News, Astorino also said the other side had mischaracterized his position on abortion. The Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion PAC, which endorsed Bramson, has said Astorino opposes abortion in all cases. But Astorino said it should be allowed in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.
“I have always said it’s an extremely difficult choice,” he said.
In 2012, Astorino vetoed clinic access legislation passed by the Westchester Board of Legislators, saying it would violate the free speech rights of protesters. Supporters of the bill said it was needed to protect patients from intimidation.