N.Y. Lawmakers Feud Over Reproductive Health Week Resolution

January 26, 2011 — The Democratic-led New York state Assembly on Tuesday approved a resolution to designate Jan. 22 to Jan. 28 as "Reproductive Rights and Justice Week," but the resolution is stalled in the Senate, where the Republican majority recently stripped key language, the Ithaca Journal reports (Matthews, Ithaca Journal, 1/24).

Republicans rejected 10 of the 12 paragraphs in the proclamation and cut language on abortion rights, contraception and "medically accurate sexuality education" (AP/Wall Street Journal, 1/19). Mark Hansen, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R), said the Senate modified the resolution because it did not fall within Senate rules (Ithaca Journal, 1/24).

In a letter, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote that the resolution sponsors "hoped this resolution would encourage public awareness of the challenges all women face when making personal, private health decisions. In what can only be characterized as outright censorship, the GOP majority not only refused to accept the resolution but returned it to the Senators with more than 90% of the language crossed out." Gillibrand also called for the public to sign an online petition to urge Senate Republicans to accept the original resolution (Matthews, "Politics on the Hudson," The Journal News, 1/24).

Senate Republicans' moves on the resolution could predict future action on the Reproductive Health Act (S 2844), which would ensure that abortion care remained legal in the state if federal laws further restrict access, according to the Ithaca Journal. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) first introduced the bill in 2007.

Bill sponsor Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said that "it's pretty clear on a national level there really is an assault on women's reproductive rights. I think people are looking very, very seriously at making sure that New York continues to protect women" (Ithaca Journal, 1/24).