Pataki to Veto 'Morning-After Pill' Bill

Gov. George Pataki (search), eyeing a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, will veto legislation that would have allowed pharmacists to provide, without prescriptions, conception-preventing, "morning-after pills" (search) to women, an aide said Sunday.

"This bill, which hasn't even been sent to the governor yet, is a flawed, politically expedient measure that fails to include any common-sense protections for minors and ignores the fact that the FDA will rule on this issue in just a few weeks," said Pataki spokesman Kevin Quinn.

"Consistent with his record on women's reproductive issues, the governor plans to veto the legislation primarily because it provides no protection whatsoever for minors," Quinn added. "If this and other flaws in the bill are addressed, and a responsible version of the bill is advanced, the governor would support it."

Similar legislation was vetoed last week by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (search), who is also eyeing the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

Supporters of the New York legislation had feared Pataki, seeking to appeal to conservatives who tend to dominate the GOP presidential nominating process, would veto the measure.

In fact, word of Pataki's veto plan came after aides learned the New York chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League was preparing to begin a television advertising campaign in New York, Iowa and New Hampshire stressing his past support for reproductive rights and urging the governor not to veto the measure.

Iowa and New Hampshire are the traditional sites of the first presidential nominating contests, and Pataki announced just last week that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term next year, a move widely seen as a prelude to a possible run for national office.

"It's unfortunate that as he looks to run for president he would toss away his principled legacy for sheer political expediency," said Kelli Conlin, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, after being told of the governor's veto plans. "It's obviously a flip-flop on his part."

Conlin said the ad campaign would continue "because we feel public pressure is the only vehicle we have at this point."

The 30-second television spots, featuring the presidential "Hail to the Chief" anthem as background music, opens with a female narrator saying "New York's Gov. George Pataki is thinking of running for president. Some believe he must appeal to right-wing conservatives to win the primary."

"As governor, he has always supported reproductive choice," the narrator continues. "So, as he considers the Oval Office, he may want to consider something else: Americans value principles over politics. Do the right thing, governor. America is watching."

Republican strategists have said Pataki's biggest hurdle if he seeks national office will likely be his past support, as governor, for abortion and gay rights as well as strict gun-control legislation.

Pataki, who until Sunday had not tipped his hand on how he would act on the bill, has been under pressure from abortion rights supporters to approve the legislation while anti-abortion groups, including New York's Roman Catholic bishops and the Pataki-allied state Conservative Party, have been just as vocal in their opposition.

"To allow a teenager to purchase the morning-after pill in the same manner as she would purchase cough drops or bubble gum is the biggest injustice one can do to our daughters and granddaughters," state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long had written in a June 24 letter to the governor. "Governor Pataki, please protect our daughters with your veto pen."

The morning-after pill legislation has yet to be sent to the governor for his consideration by the Democratic-controlled state Assembly where it originated and was approved earlier this year. The measure was approved by the Republican-led state Senate on June 22 in a move that caught many opponents by surprise.

John McArdle, a spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, said Sunday night that Pataki's fellow Republican would have no immediate comment on the governor's planned veto.

"We just felt you shouldn't start a presidential campaign with a flip-flop," said NARAL's Conlin in outlining plans for the ad campaign.

Conlin said the group would spend $50,000 to run the ad this week in New York City, its suburbs and in Albany, and another $15,000 for "a small buy in New Hampshire and Iowa."

The NARAL official said that while the ad may "mobilize people on both sides, ... I think the vast majority of Republican and Democratic voters want to see someone who's consistent and not just putting their finger in the wind, politically, when difficult issues face them."

"This is the governor's first opportunity since he announced he wasn't running [for re-election] to show that," Conlin said.

"I don't deny that in Republican primaries, it helps you to be to the right, but I don't think it helps you to begin now to try to move to the right," the NARAL official said. "Pandering would be a bad thing."