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Cuomo says he doesn’t govern as a Catholic

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday in a radio interview defended the passage of a bill bolstering abortion laws in New York as opponents seek to mobilize politically on the issue.

The bills were opposed by the Catholic Church and organizations opposed to abortion, while Vice President Mike Pence has said the bills should be a rallying cry for the pro-life movement. Abortion legislation proposed in Virginia has also led to backlash.

But Cuomo, interviewed on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, said public policy making and religion should be kept separate.

He pointed to his own Catholic upbringing and education.

“I do not govern as a Catholic. I’m not here to legislate Catholic values,” Cuomo said. “A Jewish elected official is not here to legislate Jewish values. A Muslim legislator is not here to legislate Islam.”

The law, known as the Reproductive Health Act, had not gained a vote in the state Senate until this month, after Democrats gained a working majority in the chamber as a result of the November elections.

The measure was a long-sought one for groups like Planned Parenthood. The law shifts language for abortions from the state’s penal code to the public health law, change abortion’s status as an exception to homicide and allow abortions in the third trimester of a pregnancy under certain circumstances.

The votes against the bill were not exclusively Republicans as several Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate cast no votes.

Opponents have said the legislation doesn’t do enough to protect women and fetuses who are harmed as the result of an assault; supporters say their are existing laws addressing assault on the books.

Cuomo’s father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo, also received criticism for his stance on abortion, giving a speech at Notre Dame on the issue in 1984.

The younger Cuomo noted he was aligned with the church on issues like opposition to the death penalty and combating climate change. But he the abortion issue was a matter of the church’s own opposition to the Roe v. Wade ruling, he said.

“From the Catholic Church’s point of view, they never agreed with Roe v. Wade. They were also pro-life and they now think maybe you can rollback Roe v. Wade and that’s why they’re annoyed with the state law,” he said.

“My religion is my business. My morality is my business. What I counsel my daughters in terms of abortion is my business.”

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