New York state's Catholic bishops had a long-awaited appointment with Gov. Eliot Spitzer at the state Capitol in Albany on Monday at 3 p.m. to protest his pending abortion rights legislation. For some reason, it kept getting put off, and Cardinal Edward Egan and fellow bishops were left to wonder why. They were told at one point that the lieutenant-governor, David Paterson, would meet with them. But that failed to come through. They were finally able to deduce the problem after a New York Times report on the Web indicated that Spitzer was occupied with other worries.Spitzer's legislation would declare abortion a "fundamental right." The New York State Catholic Conference argues that state regulators could use such a "radical" law to coerce Catholic hospitals to provide abortions. Spitzer said that was an exaggeration, according to The Times. (The proposed statute contains language declaring that "the state shall not discriminate against the exercise of the rights" to abortion and contraception "in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information." What does that mean?)Spitzer is not one to walk away from a fight. New York is 39 percent Catholic, according to the recent Pew survey on the U.S. Religious Landscape. The only way Spitzer really can pass the abortion-rights bill is if the Democrats win long-sought control of the State Senate from Republicans. The Dems are within one seat of doing that, and controlling the Legislature. So Spitzer would make abortion a key issue in the state legislative campaign this fall.In nominating Spitzer for governor, New York Democrats had rejected Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who had gotten national attention for proposing ways to reduce the number of abortions. Will the next governor be more conciliatory on abortion than Spitzer has been?[Photo from www.newsday.com]
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.