In a 500-word essay released this morning, Cuomo administration counsel Mylan Denerstein argues that the push to enhance abortion and reproductive rights in New York is simply an update of federal law and that critics have willfully mischaracterized the proposal.

Denerstein has written similarly on the proposal before. But this time she also suggests that the issue of abortion and reproductive rights is a black and white one.

“This is not a complicated issue. The issue of a woman’s right to choose is a binary issue—either you are pro-choice or anti-choice,” she wrote in the essay, which is being billed as a “op/ed” to media. “Reproductive choice is the law of the land and the Governor supports the law of the land. The law allows women to make reproductive decisions on whether to continue a pregnancy under certain circumstances.”

The statement from Denerstein comes after a sustained critique of the proposal has cropped up in conservative media publications, including the website Newsmax, which included an interview with ex-Gov. George Pataki who was critical of the proposal. Cuomo aides were very quick to refute Pataki’s claim in the interview, which was highlighted by a group opposed to abortion.

At the root of the criticism is that the measure would expand abortion rights to include partial-birth abortion, an idea that was first and most prominently advanced by Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos at the state’s Conservative Party dinner last month.

But Denerstein argues that it’s a matter of updating New York’s law to be in line with federal provisions.

In his State of the State address in January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a 10-point women’s equality package that he specifically said would include the Reproductive Health Act.

Last week, Cuomo told reporters that the measure he would propose is not the RHA specifically, but that he would write his own bill with the same broad strokes as the one sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

The full op/ed from Denerstein is after the jump.

Critics have repeatedly said that Governor Cuomo is attempting an “expansion” or “radical extension” of a woman’s right to choose. The statements made by the opposition are outrageous and disingenuous. The Governor’s position is to purely codify existing federal law. To be clear, there would be no change whatsoever in law and practice now existing in the state of New York.

This is not a complicated issue. The issue of a woman’s right to choose is a binary issue—either you are pro-choice or anti-choice. Reproductive choice is the law of the land and the Governor supports the law of the land. The law allows women to make reproductive decisions on whether to continue a pregnancy under certain circumstances.
The anti-choice movement rejects the law of the land and that is their right. But while we respect moral, religious and ethical opposition to abortion, and an honest dialogue on the issue, the opposition is wrong to grossly mischaracterize the Governor’s position.
Let me set the record straight.

The Governor’s position is clear: he would simply realign state law to existing federal law and state practice because current state law is outdated. There is no editorial comment, no expansion, no radicalization and no interpretation.

For example, contrary to repeated false statements made by anti-choice opponents, the Governor would not allow “partial birth” abortion because a federal law bans partial birth abortion, except for the life of the mother.

There is and can be no change to that whatsoever.

Opponents have misleadingly argued that the Governor would create “abortion on demand” because of the inclusion of a “health exemption” of the mother. However a health exemption is already the law of the land.

Again there is and can be no change to that whatsoever.

In another often-said mischaracterization by anti-choice opponents, the Governor is not expanding in any way whatsoever who may perform the procedures. New York State law and regulations currently allow certain non-physician medical professionals (e.g. physician assistants) to perform the procedure in certain circumstances.

Again there is no change to that whatsoever.

Finally, contrary to anti-choice opponents, the Governor would not undermine religious freedom in any way. State law currently protects individuals who for religious and/or moral reasons object to providing constitutionally-guaranteed abortion services. For example, State law does not require that a hospital perform an abortion.

Again there is no change to that whatsoever.

The Governor would simply realign our outdated state laws to federal law and existing state practice. No matter how hard opponents try to skew and mischaracterize that position, it’s really that simple. And although simple, it’s important that it happens. The Supreme Court could always change and we want to protect a woman’s current right to choose.

Supporting and enforcing the law of the land is hardly a radical position, despite how opponents have tried to frame the Governor’s position—far from it. One could actually argue that the opposition to a woman’s right to choose—and rejection of the law of the land for more than forty years—is the radical position.