ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The state Assembly voted Wednesday for legislation to codify in New York the abortion rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court, moving it separately this year from a group of bills intended to ensure other women’s rights in the workplace and courts.
New York first established abortion rights for women in 1970, three years before the top federal court did it nationally in Roe v. Wade. While both allow terminating a pregnancy in the first 24 weeks, New York’s law allows later-term abortions to protect a woman’s life, while the Supreme Court said it can be done also to protect her health.
“The Assembly majority believes that in the fight for true women’s equality, the most basic right of all is a woman’s right to make reproductive health decisions for her own body,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, surrounded by advocates for the bill and Democratic colleagues. “We believe that her body is a personal space, and its privacy and autonomy must be defended.”
Assembly member Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat and chief sponsor, said the bill would ensure those rights in New York should a Supreme Court with different members reverse itself. “It guarantees a woman’s life and health can be protected in these decisions,” she said.
Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said the federal court’s ruling generally applies now in New York, though the state statute is written to allow abortions as exceptions to its penal law against them. Sometimes, even now, women are turned away from hospitals when they go for an abortion for medical reasons and had to go elsewhere, she said.
A few have even been charged by prosecutors, though in every case those charges have been dropped, Miller said. Both circumstances add to the anguish of already difficult situations, she said.
“These are wanted pregnancies,” said Corinne Carey of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “These are absolute tragedies.”
Her office gets calls about those late-term cases about once a year, Carey said.
The Assembly passed the bill 95-51 after a floor debate.
Assemblyman Raymond Walter, an Erie County Republican, said there’s no legitimate threat to abortion rights in New York. “The reality is this is a political bill,” he said.
Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, a Long Island Republican who said he’s “pro-life,” said the person unheard-from in the debate was the unborn child. “So in memory of the millions of children who never had the opportunity to be New Yorkers, I cast my vote in the negative,” he said.
Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, a Republican from suburban Buffalo, said she’s “pro-choice,” but voted against it. She said it’s unnecessary, that rights for New York women will remain even if the Supreme Court reverses. She said the bill would also strike down part of the state penal law and cause confusion by leaving it up to the courts to decide whether to expand or restrict abortion rights.
The Assembly measure faces opposition among Senate’s majority Republicans, who have refused to advance it while approving the other bills meant to ensure equal pay and prohibit gender discrimination.
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