N.Y. Dems, Women's Rights Groups Urge Vote on Entire Women's Equality Act

May 29, 2014 — New York Senate Democrats and women's rights groups are urging legislative leaders to hold a floor vote on a package of 10 bills, together called the Women's Equality Act, before the session ends, the Albany Legislative Gazette reports (Fay, Albany Legislative Gazette, 5/27).

Last year, the state Senate passed every measure in the package except an abortion-rights bill, and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) refused to consider the package without the abortion measure.

Democrats reintroduced the measure last week, with Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins saying that the group is committed to passing the package in its entirety.

The bills cover issues such as human trafficking, reproductive rights, sexual harassment, pay equity and protective orders for women. Supporters have said the abortion-rights measure in the package would bring state law in line with the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/21).

Dems Explain Abortion Measure

State Sen. Liz Krueger (D) explained that abortion is regulated under New York's penal code, which means that abortion providers can face criminal charges even if an abortion is in a patient's best interest. She said the WEA would recodify abortion regulations into state health law.

Krueger said that controversy over the abortion measure -- which also clarifies the legality of the procedure to protect a woman's life or health -- mainly stems from conservatives who misinterpret the bill's language to mean that women could have an abortion for any reason (Albany Legislative Gazette, 5/27). Opponents of the bill have claimed it would allow non-physicians to perform abortions up to birth (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/21).

Stewart-Cousins said that Senate Democrats stand "united" on the bill, calling on state Sens. Dean Skelos (R) and Jeff Klein (D) "to bring the entire [WEA] before the state Senate so that all New Yorkers are able to see where their elected officials stand on these important issues, and beyond that, to pass it so we can start to improve the lives of women in New York" (Albany Legislative Gazette, 5/27).