New York pro-choice groups are already making an issue of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s pro-life stance, a day after he called the issue a “straw man” to distract from economic issues.
Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Astorino — a potential GOP gubernatorial candidate — said Cuomo was using the abortion issue to rally his base. He also spoke out against a proposal to strengthen New York’s abortion laws, saying it would increase access to abortions.
“Abortion’s been legal in this state for 44 years,” Astorino said. “Abortion, in any major way in New York, is not going anywhere but he is trying to use it to drive his supporters and maybe raise money off it.”
Astorino’s comment drew rebukes from three prominent pro-choice groups, including Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York, whose top executive said his stance on abortion is in “direct opposition with New York voters.”
“Rob Astorino has chosen to make one of his first statements as a potential statewide candidate an insult to over half the voters, the women of the state of New York,” Tracey Brooks, the group’s president, said in a statement Thursday. “It is hard to take his potential candidacy seriously when his ignorant remarks callously dismiss the values of the vast majority of New York voters.”
The abortion plank of Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act would formally install federal Roe v. Wade rights into state law. Sandra Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women in New York City, said Astorino is “using the same tired anti-choice strategy of scare tactics and misinformation.”
UPDATE: In a statement, Astorino spokesman Bill O’Reilly accused the pro-choice groups of being Cuomo “surrogates.”
“New Yorkers are exhausted by Governor Cuomo and his surrogates working to distract voters from the unmet economic challenges that are bleeding jobs and people from New York State,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “Today’s attacks on County Executive Rob Astorino are the umpteenth example of that.”
Meanwhile, in a SiriusXM radio interview Wednesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, said Cuomo’s Friday comments on “extreme conservatives” were “most unfortunate at best, inflammatory and outrageous at worse.” Still, he said, it represents an opportunity for pro-life advocates to make their views better known and understood.
“It is very good for us and beneficial I think to use this as an opportunity to make some very important points apart from the personalities, apart from what everyone might think of Governor Cuomo and however one might characterize the statement,” Dolan said.
Here’s Dolan’s interview on SiriusXM’s “The Catholic Channel” (where, coincidentally, Astorino once served as station manager):