In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) vowed to protect and bolster a host of women’s rights, from abortion to pay equity to domestic violence supports. On Tuesday, Cuomo followed through by introducing the Women’s Equality Act, a wide-ranging bill already facing backlash from anti-abortion advocates. Cuomo blasted “fear-mongering” over the bill’s updated abortion language and urged New Yorkers to accept the package. “Bias against women is sweeping. It exists. The discrimination exists. We’re not going to allow it to exist anymore,” Cuomo declared in a press conference Tuesday.
New York’s current abortion law predates the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision, which led to a federal law legalizing late-term abortions when a woman’s health is in danger. The state law has a more restrictive abortion limit at 6 months of pregnancy. Cuomo wants to update this law to reinforce the federal protections, while moving abortion regulation from criminal law to health law. The plan, which originally would have expanded the types of health professionals who could perform abortions, has already been scaled back to appease Republicans.
The bill would also tackle housing discrimination against single mothers and victims of domestic violence, make it easier for women to get restraining orders against abusers, expand sexual harassment protections to all workplaces, and increase penalties for human trafficking. Additionally, employers would no longer be allowed to fire pregnant workers who need certain accommodations, or retaliate against employees who share their wage information with each other.
Cuomo has made it his mission to make New York one of the strongest states in the nation for women’s rights. Earlier this year, he pushed a “rape is rape” bill updating the state’s rape statute to include more kinds of sexual violence.
Still, conservatives may try to derail the entire agenda based on the reproductive rights language. A spokeswoman for the Senate Republican leader attacked it as “a political maneuver designed to curry favor with the extremists who want to expand late-term abortion, and open the door to non-physicians performing abortions.” The Catholic League scoffed that the governor’s “lust for abortion rights has effectively killed his chances of ever becoming president of the United States.” Despite the outcry from the right, Cuomo’s proposal will simply bring New York in line with federal law, not expand access to abortions.