January 16, 2013 — New York Democrats and more than 400 women's rights advocates on Monday rallied near the state Capitol to support a legislative package known as the Women's Equality Act, which includes measures to strengthen reproductive rights in the state, WGRZ reports.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) endorsed the 10-point legislative package during his State of the State address last week. The package includes the Reproductive Health Act, which has failed to pass in recent years (Bakeman, WGRZ, 1/14).
Last year's version of the Reproductive Health Act aimed to alter current New York law, which prohibits abortions after 24 weeks of gestation unless the woman's life is in danger, by establishing a woman's right to an abortion later in pregnancy if her health is at risk. The act also would codify a woman's right to accept or refuse to take contraceptives, as well as shift abortion out of the penal code and into the health code (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/19/12).
Legislators will debate the entire Women's Equality Act in the coming weeks, although it is unclear when it will go to a vote (Wurtmann, WNYT, 1/14). The package also includes measures to ensure equal pay, strengthen human trafficking laws, and deter employment, housing and lending discrimination.
At Monday's rally, Tracey Brooks, CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, said, "During the 2012 elections, voters in New York and across the nation were loud and clear about the value they place on comprehensive reproductive health care access," adding, "Now is the time for New York state lawmakers to answer that call and stand strong for the women of New York by passing" the bill.
Church Groups File Memo in Opposition
Also on Monday, the state Catholic Conference in a memorandum of opposition urged lawmakers to reject the bill.
"The reality is that no woman is without ample opportunity for an abortion in New York state," the memo said, adding that instead of voting to "increase the tragedy of abortion, we urge policy makers to look at constructive ways to reduce abortion and truly make abortion 'rare'" (WGRZ, 1/14).