NY Lawmakers Remove Abortion Rights Provision From Women's Equality Act


For nearly two years, New York state has been trying and failing to pass the Women’s Equality Act (WEA), a ten-point bill designed to strengthen women’s rights in the state. The sticking point has been the tenth provision, which would safeguard late-term abortion rights. After lots of fighting, supporters of the abortion provision have agreed to scrap it.

The WEA’s other planks are mostly pretty great: strengthening equal pay laws and anti-sexual harassment provisions, allowing people to recover their attorney’s fees in sex discrimination cases, prohibit “familial status discrimination” and domestic violence discrimination for housing seekers, allow domestic violence victims to get “remote” orders of protection instead of having to face their abusers in court, and strengthen laws against human trafficking and pregnancy discrimination.

But Senate Republicans have repeatedly refused to pass the bill with the tenth provision intact, Senate Bill 5881, which would codify into state law that women can obtain an abortion ” within 24 weeks of pregnancy, or when necessary to protect her life or health,” and that neither the patient nor the doctor can face criminal sanctions.

After years of insisting that the WEA should be passed as a whole or not at all, Assembly Democrats and reproductive health groups backing the bill, including Planned Parenthod and NARAL, agreed yesterday to remove the abortion provision. The anti-trafficking measures were also separated into their own bill, which the Assembly quickly passed.

Andrea Miller, president of NARAL New York, told City and State that an incomplete bill is better than none at all, but that she’s still hopeful the abortion provision might pass:

“I think anything that moves women forward in this state is an accomplishment, but I also know our work will not be done until all those protections are enshrined in state law. It’s a new session. We have the utmost confidence that the Assembly will stand tall and support protections for women’s health, including the rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade. They’ve always stood tall for that and my hope would be that we can see that.”

This is an impasse in one of the most liberal states in the country, where Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigned for reelection by promising to pass the whole WEA, campaigning as both a Democrat and part of the newly-created “Women’s Equality Party” (creating a “new” party allowed Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul to appear on the ballot twice).

Even here in this “safest” of blue states we can’t all agree to protect people who need late-term abortion care. Important as the other provisions are—and they’re really, really important—it’s hard not to feel the sting in this particular victory.

Andrew Cuomo during a press conference on the Women’s Equality Act in 2013, the first time it was introduced. Photo via AP

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