New York Legislators Move to Strengthen Abortion Rights

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New York Legislators Move to Strengthen Abortion Rights

Nina Liss-Schultz

New York state lawmakers are moving forward with legislation to codify a person’s right to abortion, moving state law in line with the federal standard outlined in Roe v. Wade.

New York state lawmakers are moving forward with legislation to codify a person’s right to abortion, moving state law in line with the federal standard outlined in Roe v. Wade.

The New York Assembly approved AB 6221 on Wednesday in a 95-51 vote, framing it as a way to increase women’s access to reproductive services. Democrats dominate the state’s assembly, 106 to 44, and the GOP has a one-seat majority in the state senate.

“When a woman is denied the ability to make reproductive health decisions, she is statistically more likely to find herself unemployed, on public assistance and below the poverty line,” assembly speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “The Supreme Court stood up for women in Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago, have reaffirmed their decision in subsequent cases, and now it is our turn to do the same.”

New York first legalized abortion in 1970, adopting what was seen as the most liberal abortion law in the country. But the law is not completely in line with the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision three years later: unlike the federal standard, which protects abortion in all cases until viability and after viability in cases where the pregnant person’s health or life are endangered, the New York law allowed later abortions only to protect a pregnant person’s life.

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AB 6221, introduced in March by a long list of sponsors, would change state law to allow abortions after 24 weeks in cases of both life endangerment and health.

The state assembly tried in 2013 to codify abortion rights in the state, including such a provision as part of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ten-point Women’s Equality Act.

After a five-month battle, the state senate rejected the bill, which would have also increased workplace protections for women and barred landlords from discriminating against victims of domestic violence, in large part because of the abortion rights provision.

If the bill were to pass the Republican-led senate, New York would become the eighth state in the country to codify abortion in line with federal standards.

Nineteen states have laws that express their intent to restrict abortion despite Roe v. Wade, including laws that would ban abortion if Roe were overturned and unenforceable abortion bans left over from before the court’s Roe decision.