Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said on an Albany public radio show Thursday that she “can’t imagine” there won’t be bipartisan support for a bill to strengthen New York’s abortion laws, which she views as a simple “updating” of state statutes to reflect federal standards.
Stewart-Cousins, who is the first woman to lead a legislative conference in Albany, has sponsored the Reproductive Health Act in recent years, a bill that supporters argue codifies in state law the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Conservatives and the Catholic church staunchly oppose the bill, arguing it will increase access in a state that already leads the nation in abortions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is working with women’s groups on his own abortion measure, and he said yesterday he has not yet identified support for the legislation in the state Senate. The GOP conference, led by Long Island Sen. Dean Skelos, will not vote for the bill, the leader said yesterday, and there are at least two pro-life Democrats in the chamber.
Stewart-Cousins said New York led the nation in abortion rights legislation and should continue to do so; the state passed a law allowing abortions in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade.
“If we were able to pass the original legislation in 1970 with 12 Republican votes, I can’t imagine that in 2013, we’re unable to have a bipartisan support for women’s equality, women’s rights, and women preserving their reproductive health,” she said Thursday on “The Capitol Pressroom.” “It would certainly send a very bad signal, frankly, to New Yorkers if we can’t, and New York women in particular, if we can’t do that.”
She said supporters of Cuomo’s 10-point “Women’s Equality Act” will not accept separating the nine less controversial measures from the abortion piece. “Cherry picking” is not an option, she said; each piece affects women’s lives.
“To codify Roe v. Wade, to say that there are standards that are better for women that actually were captured in the national legislation years after we passed ours, is not anything that’s radical,” she said. “It’s a matter of updating our laws.
“We do it every day,” she finished.