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Zeldin shies away from limiting abortion rights in race for New York governor

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)
Jacquelyn Martin

The Republican candidate for New York governor, Lee Zeldin, said even though he is opposed to abortion rights, he respects the views of those who disagree with him and would not make big changes in the state’s abortion rights laws. But his opponent, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, isn’t buying it.

The Long Island Congressman told the state’s Business Council at its annual meeting that he’s focused on reducing taxes, improving the economy and reducing crime. Speaking to reporters, Zeldin said though he considers himself to be pro-life, the issue is not dominating his campaign. He adds that he has no plans to try to repeal the 2019 law that codified the rights in the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision into New York state law. Roe was overturned by the high court in June.

“I’m not in this race because of abortion,” said Zeldin. “I’m not standing here today proposing to roll back that law. I’m not planning to roll back that law.”

Zeldin, when pressed, would not completely rule out any executive orders or making changes in the state’s health department policies that provide funding and assistance for women from state’s where abortion is banned or limited, to receive reproductive health services here. But he said his background is in the legislature and he is philosophically opposed to unilateral actions by chief executives. He said he would also listen to the “will of the people” of the state.

“In some other darker red states, there might be a very different perspective on whether or not taxpayers should have to pay for people to come into the state for an abortion from another state,” Zeldin said. “Versus what the will of the people may be in a blue state like New York.”

Zeldin’s opponent, Governor Hochul has been running television ads that portray Zeldin as “extreme” on abortion and not suitable to lead New York.

Hochul, who also spoke at the gathering, told the media that she stands by that description.

“Someone, who running for governor in the state of New York who applauded and cheered the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” Hochul said. “I stand by my assessment. That’s how I define an extremist.”

Hochul told the business leaders that she believes New York’s abortion rights laws will help the state’s economy, and draw more high tech companies and workers from other states, like Texas, where abortion is heavily restricted.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.