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Cuomo Bucks Tide With Bill to Ease Limits on Abortion (February 17, 2013)

Reproductive Rights in New York
Published: February 19, 2013
Cuomo Bucks Tide With Bill to Ease Limits on Abortion (February 17, 2013)
New York State once led the nation in advancing women’s rights. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to re-establish that pre-eminence with an omnibus agenda on women’s equality. The most important piece of that agenda would essentially enshrine in state law existing federal protections for abortion rights.
Antiquated language in the state’s abortion law bans the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the woman’s life is at risk. Federal rulings also require an exception to protect a woman’s health. Mr. Cuomo’s proposal would bring New York into line with those standards.
This is important because complications severely affecting a woman’s health often arise later in pregnancy. Although New York’s law cannot be enforced because it is superseded by federal law, as a practical matter, some New York doctors fear prosecution and, as a result, some women are forced to leave the state to get the care they need. Mr. Cuomo’s proposal is a crucial move at a crucial time. A strong law would help inoculate New York’s abortion laws against future watering down of reproductive rights at the federal level.
Seven other states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington — have already passed similar protections. In contrast, lawmakers in Mississippi, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming have made state laws so restrictive that each of these states has just a single abortion provider. Some states could soon have no abortion services at all.
According to a report in The Times on Sunday, the Cuomo bill would shift the state’s abortion law from the criminal code to the health care laws where it belongs. It would also make it clearer that licensed health care practitioners as well as physicians could perform abortions.
Updating the abortion law would be only one section of Mr. Cuomo’s 10-part agenda on women’s rights. His proposal would provide new protections for pregnant workers and victims of domestic violence. It would ban job, housing and salary discrimination against women with children, who he says are “less likely to be recommended for hire and promoted.” These are all worthy changes.
With so many forces working across the country to undermine a woman’s reproductive rights, lawmakers in New York should move solidly and swiftly in the other direction.

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