Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday night he’s negotiating with lawmakers a 10-measure women’s rights package, which would include a controversial abortion bill.
He’s not planning to separate the abortion piece in order to allow the Legislature to approve other, non-contentious measures. The so-called “Women’s Equality Act” would include not only a bill to codify federal abortion rights in state law, but also legislation enhancing pay equity, cracking down on sex trafficking and ending pregnancy discrimination.
“All ten (measures) are important, and we are negotiating that right now as one package,” Cuomo said Sunday while attending a reception for the Black, Puerto-Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.
He said the abortion bill he plans to propose will be different than the existing Reproductive Health Act, legislation that has been carried unsuccessfully for several years by Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. Critics, particularly conservative groups and the Catholic church, have called the bill an “abortion expansion act,” claiming it would expand access to abortions, particularly in the third trimester.
Cuomo and supporters say an abortion bill would only include in state law the rights that women already have under the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Current New York statute is more restrictive than federal law, so it’s obselete.
Cuomo cautioned reporters Sunday not to refer to his bill as the Reproductive Health Act—it’s different, he said.
“Be careful when you give it a name, because that suggests it’s likened to another bill,” Cuomo said. “This is going to be a separate position, and all this position does is codify the federal law. I can’t say it enough.”
As for how his bill varies: “I’m not going to go line by line,” he said, “but to the extent some people believe that (the Reproductive Health Act) goes further than the existing law—it would be different.”
He said the purpose of passing an abortion bill would be to guarantee New York women the rights they have now should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Maybe not this year, but it could happen,” he said, “and if you have a state law, you’re protected.”
He said he’s in talks with lawmakers on the status of the women’s rights package. The state will “make progress” by the end of session, he said.
At the reception, Cuomo also discussed his push to increase the state minimum wage. He said he doesn’t plan to rework his proposal to increase the wage from $7.25 to $8.75 an hour, although President Obama last week advocated a federal wage hike to $9.
He said the president’s suggestion makes state negotiations “more complex.” Republicans have said New York doesn’t need to increase the wage as the federal government might do it, which would trump state law.
“I understand that,” Cuomo said of the Republicans’ position. “That assumes it happens federally. And if it actually passed federally at $9, they would have a point. We’re a long way between here and there.”