New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has refused to sign the state's 2019-20 budget until lawmakers approve a bill that would make it legal to have an abortion for any reason up until birth, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.
On Monday, Cuomo delivered a pro-abortion speech at Barnard College in Manhattan, where he vowed not to support the budget until the Legislature passes the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act. Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and presidential candidate, stood alongside the governor at the event.
The 61-year-old Democrat also vowed during his speech to push an amendment to enshrine abortion in the state constitution. Cuomo first called for the constitutional amendment last year.
What does the Reproductive Health Act say?
Currently, only licensed physicians are allowed to perform an abortion, and only up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
"Every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child or have an abortion," the Reproductive Health Act reads.
If approved, any licensed health care provider acting in "good faith" would be able to perform an abortion at any time up until birth.
Abortion would also be removed as a crime from the state's penal code.
The bill has passed the Democrat-controlled assembly in the past, according to the Rochester Democrat. However, it stalled in the Republican-led Senate for more than a decade.
Democrats gained Senate majority after the 2018 midterm elections.
"This is only the beginning of the protections that we will have for our women, for our environment, criminal-justice reform, education — the list goes on," state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Monday, according to the report. "But in January, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we will make our statement, we will make our mark."
Stewart-Cousins first sponsored the Reproductive Health Act in 2007.
What about enshrining abortion in the NY Constitution?
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has a conservative majority, some pro-abortion lawmakers and activists fear Roe v. Wade could someday be overturned.
The bill to enshrine federal abortion rights would require a separate vote and approval by the Legislature to start the amendment process. The 2021 Legislature would also have to approve it before it could be sent to voters, who would have to pass the measure before it would become law.
What did Clinton say?
Clinton praised the governor for pushing for abortion protections, describing him as a "lifelong champion of these rights," according to the Rochester Democrat.
"New York led the rest of the country even before Roe v. Wade in making abortion legal," Clinton said during her speech.
"But the struggle for women's equality is not something simply to be read about in the pages of your history books," Clinton said. "It continues to be the fight of our lifetime."
What about pro-life activists?
The Reproductive Health Act would remove protections for women if criminal penalties are removed for illegal abortions.
"A real concern is that if you take abortion out of the criminal code, what happens in instances of domestic violence where men abuse the women they are sharing living spaces with," Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, told the Rochester Democrat.
"And we know there are heightened instances of domestic violence cases during pregnancy."
Feminists Choosing Life of New York described the bill as"opposite of pro-woman," in a statement.
FCNLY denounced the legislation in six letters it submitted to the New York Times in response to "A Woman's Rights," an op-ed published Dec. 28.
"One point of opposition is the heinous legalization of abortion during the second and third trimester of pregnancy through the inclusion of a broad health exception allowing women to abort viable fetuses for essentially any reason; including economic or familial health," Kelly Brunacini, a member of the group's board of directors, wrote in one of the letters posted on FCNLY's website.
"The vast majority of Americans, including in New York, oppose these late-term abortions. As a New Yorker, Democrat and feminist, I can't help but wonder what history will say about a people who allowed the legalized killing of fully formed human beings for the sake of exerting political dominance."
The group's letters have gone unpublished, according to FCNLY.