ALBANY (CN) – Coinciding with the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the New York Senate passed a hard-fought law Tuesday that updates time limits on when women can undergo abortions.
In addition to removing abortion from New York’s criminal code, the Reproductive Health Act codifies the protections of Roe v. Wade, which affirms a woman’s right to an abortion, with limits, in state law.
For nearly a decade, the act won approval multiple times by the Democrat-controlled state Assembly only to get shot down by New York’s Republican-controlled state Senate.
This year, however, with Democrats holding a 40-23 majority, lawmakers made passing the act a top priority. The act passed 38-24 this afternoon to resounding applause in the Senate chamber, followed by a similarly raucous 92-47 vote in the Assembly.
Since 1970, the law in New York has allowed women to seek abortions at any point if the procedure is deemed medically necessary to protect the mother's life, but otherwise up to the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy.
The Reproductive Health Act maintains the 24-week limit but adds a provision for abortions at any time if the baby would not survive the birth. The act also permits abortions at any point if it is necessary to protect the mother's life or health, and it decriminalizes abortion by regulating it under the public health law as opposed to penal law.
The act’s Senate sponsor Liz Krueger explained on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon that, because the state law predates Roe v. Wade by three years, the act will explicitly codify the rights to abortion under Roe into state law and should move abortion out of the criminal code and into the health code. “It's a medical procedure, it actually should never have been in the penal code,” Kreuger said.
At a news conference prior to the Senate session Tuesday, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins took aim at the Trump administration’s pronounced threats to the protections of Roe.
Standing next to a banner declaring “Working Together to Move New York Forward,” Stewart-Cousins said the law’s passage today shows that Trump’s rhetoric will not fly, “not here in New York.”
"We're not just saying no, we're saying here in New York, women's lives matter,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We're saying here in New York, women's decisions matter.
"We're also saying that contraceptive care matters," the Senate majority leader added. “And while we're at it, we're saying your boss should not be able to determine your reproductive health options.”
Stewart-Cousins is the first woman and first black woman to lead a legislative house in Albany.
Attendees at the news conference included Sarah Weddington, the original attorney who represented Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) before the Supreme Court in 1971 and 1972.
Sporting a pink tie, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie thanked advocates for the cause and the constituents who voted for the Democrat majority.
“Always in my heart, I knew the Senate Republicans would never allow this to get to the floor,” Heastie said. "Finally people done said we're going to give you a Democratic Senate."
The State Senate also passed the Comprehensive Contraception Care Act, which requires insurers to cover contraception without a co-payment, allow for access to a year’s supply of contraception, and improve timely and affordable access to emergency contraception.
The act was the first bill sponsored by Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar, a 28-year old Democratic socialist and chair of the state’s Women’s Health Subcommittee, who defeated eight-term incumbent Senator Martin Dilan last year.
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