Abortion bill defeated by one vote in health committee
ALBANY—A bill that would strengthen abortion rights in New York was defeated by one vote in the State Senate health committee on Tuesday.
The Reproductive Health Act, a controversial bill that Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has carried for several years, updates the state's existing laws regarding abortion to be consistent with federal protections. Opponents of the bill, chiefly conservative Republicans and the Catholic Church, argue that the legislation amounts to an extreme expansion of abortion rights in a state that leads the country in the procedure.
After its defeat in the committee by a 9-8 vote, the bill will not come to the Senate floor. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo's Women's Equality Act, a 10-point package of women's rights legislation, includes a similar provision.
Cuomo pushed for the Women's Equality Act during the 2013 legislative session, but it was blocked by Senate Republicans. The governor said recently at a campaign rally that he would again try to get it passed before the end of session.
New York legalized abortion three years before the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, but the state's laws are more restrictive than what's provided in federal law. Critics argue the legislation is not necessary, because New York women's abortion rights are protected by federal law, but abortion advocates argue it's necessary in case the Supreme Court were to reverse the decision.
“In 1970, when the issue of reproductive health was first passed in New York, 12 Republican Senators joined a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support this landmark legislation,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “Women’s health is not a Republican or Democratic issue. The women of New York deserve a vote, and deserve to know where their elected officials stand on these important issues.”
While Stewart-Cousins blamed Republicans and their coalition colleagues in the Independent Democratic Conference for the bill's defeat in committee, Senate Republicans accused “reckless” Democrats of attempting to jeopardize women's health.
“By continuing to push for an extreme and dangerous proposal that would allow non-doctors to perform abortions right up to the day of a baby's birth, the Senate Democrats have once again put party politics over the health and safety of New York’s women,” Kelly Cummings, spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, said in a statement.
The bill allows medical professionals such as nurse practitioners to perform abortions if the procedure is in their scope of practice, as determined by medical licensing boards. As is consistent with federal law, women may have abortions at any time during pregnancy if their health or lives are in danger, and that determination must be made by a doctor.