Critics are charging pro-choice Democrats in New York’s state Senate with a scheme to ram through an abortion rights amendment during the Jewish Sabbath in order to prevent Sen. Simcha Felder, a pro-life Orthodox Jew, from casting a vote.
The New York Post reports that the June 28th vote placed Felder, from Brooklyn, in a predicament in that, if he left Albany to observe Shabbat, the abortion amendment could pass; if he remained, he would be violating his religious observance.
Deputy Senate GOP leader Tom Libous said, “The Democrats were counting votes. They were waiting for Simcha to leave. They thought they were going to get away with that.”
Libous continued, “I told Simcha, ‘They’re waiting for you to leave.’ They didn’t care. It was extremely insensitive.”
Felder, a socially conservative Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, said it was indeed wrong to have a conscience issue like abortion raised on or immediately before a religious observance.
“I was told that they [the Democrats] were waiting for me to leave,” Felder said. “I was pretty dumbfounded why the vote couldn’t take place a day or two before the Sabbath.”
When the abortion issue was not up for a vote by mid-afternoon Friday, Felder decided to consult with a rabbi on how he should proceed.
“I was told because abortion is an issue of life and death, I was compelled to stay and cast a vote,” Felder stated.
When it was clear that Felder was remaining, Sen. Jeff Klein, head of the four-member Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), brought the amendment up for a vote at 4:50 p.m.
With Felder’s “no” vote, the bill failed to attain the 32 votes needed to pass. Felder then rushed home before sundown.
The IDC and the regular Senate Democrats denied conspiring to wait for Felder to leave to bring up the vote.
Pro-life supporters said that Gov. Cuomo’s bill would have elevated abortion to a fundamental right. If passed, the bill would have required that the state not discriminate on abortion in benefits or services or anything else it provides.
Republicans in the state Senate had pledged to block the bill. Originally, Klein said that while his group supports abortion rights, it decided against allowing a vote on a bill that would fail.
The IDC introduced nine of Cuomo’s ten Women’s Equality Agenda measures, including enhanced penalties for human traffickers and increased legal damages for women who are not given equal pay.
The abortion plank was omitted following massive opposition to the decriminalization of abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, when a woman’s health–not just her life–was at risk. “Health” is a vague term that was feared, by pro-life supporters, to allow abortion on demand.-