The New York Senate opened its legislative session today by passing eight of the 10 planks of the Women's Equality Act (WEA) – but not the controversial measure to expand late-term abortion statewide.
The chamber, which is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference, passed the rest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's treasured WEA on the first day of operations by a unanimous, 62-0 vote.
The bill's opponents say a bipartisan majority supports nine of the bill's 10 planks. A version of one of his goals, aimed at punishing domestic violence, has already been signed into law. Other planks include strengthening laws against human trafficking, banning discrimination against pregnant women at work, and cracking down on gender-based discrimination in employment or housing.
But the abortion expansion plank would allow abortions to be performed up to the moment of birth, clear nurse practitioners or midwives to perform abortions, and extend abortions after 24 weeks for the mother's “health” – an intentionally imprecise term that in practice allows abortion under any circumstances.
The measure would have forced all hospitals in the state to refer patients for abortion or lose taxpayer funding. Cardinal Timothy Dolan warned that the bill could open the door to forced abortions.
“It is a new year and time to put progress over politics by passing effective measures that provide women with the protections they need and the opportunities they deserve,” Senate Majority Leader and Coalition Co-Leader Dean Skelos said shortly before the vote.
The outcome delighted the state's conservatives. “We are pleased that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's dangerous and unnecessary abortion expansion bill has not received a Senate vote,” said Rev. Jason J. McGuire, the executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.
“There is simply no valid reason that the Assembly majority's reckless pro-abortion extremism should continue to obstruct the progress of important advances on human trafficking and sexual harassment,” McGuire said. “The women of New York deserve better.”
The state's pro-abortion leaders expressed outrage that the Senate had again blocked Gov. Cuomo's attempts to liberalize the state's abortion laws. Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who introduced the Reproductive Health Act, called today's action a “deliberate distraction from their extremist anti-choice views.”
“A woman’s right to choose is a fundamental right,” Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Speaker of the State Assembly, said. “Until the Senate decides that a women’s right to choose is part of a women’s agenda, I’m not sure that we’re going to have matching bills.”
But State Sen. John Bonacic, R-42, asked how Sheldon Silver can “say he’s for women’s rights and not pass these eight bills?”
New York's lower legislative body, the Democrat-controlled State Assembly, passed the abortion plank 97-47 in June 2013 but did not pass the Senate. The Senate Health Committee rebuffed Cuomo's next push at expanding abortion by a party-line vote of 9-7 last May.
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Cuomo would later state that people who support the “right to life…have no place in the State of New York.”
Last summer, Andrew Cuomo launched a Women's Equality Party to promote his abortion-expansion agenda and his party's “war on women” theme.