March 27, 2015 — The New York Assembly on Wednesday voted 95-51 to approve legislation (AB 6221) that would codify abortion rights established under Roe v. Wade into state law, the AP/Washington Times reports.
The measure is expected to meet opposition in the state Senate, where it failed to pass in earlier sessions (Virtanen, AP/Washington Times, 3/25).
The measure is part of the Women's Equality Act, which was initially designed as a multipiece legislative package addressing a range of issues, including sex trafficking, pay equity, pregnancy discrimination and abortion rights. The package has been introduced in two previous sessions but failed to pass in the state Senate, where some conservatives opposed the abortion-rights provision.
Although state Assembly leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) back the package in its entirety, state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) said lawmakers have agreed to consider the bills individually to end the impasse that has prevented it from advancing (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/18).
New York legalized abortion in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. However, the New York statute only permits abortion after viability to protect a women's life, and not to preserve her health.
NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller explained that the state's abortion statute is written so that abortion procedures needed to protect a woman's health are allowed as exceptions to the state's penal law against them. She said women seeking abortions for medical reasons have been turned away from hospitals and had to seek care elsewhere. Further, she said some women were charged by prosecutors, although the charges were later dropped.
Heastie said, "The Assembly majority believes that in the fight for true women's equality, the most basic right of all is a woman's right to make reproductive health decisions for her own body."
Separately, state Rep. Jane Corwin (R), who voted against the measure, said it was unnecessary because New York would maintain its abortion-rights protections even if the Supreme Court reverses Roe. In addition, she said the bill could lead to confusion by removing part of the state's penal law and leaving it to the courts to decide whether to expand or limit abortion rights (AP/Washington Times, 3/25).