Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton on Monday called on the New York State Legislature to quickly pass long-stalled bills that would bolster reproductive rights — and the governor said he would push for a constitutional amendment that would protect a woman’s right to choose.
Clinton said the Reproductive Health Act and the Contraceptive Care Act are needed because of the changing stance on abortion and contraception rights in Washington, especially with a majority conservative Supreme Court. Both bills, which passed in the Assembly but failed to get enough Senate votes during the last session, would codify many rights granted to women by Roe v. Wade regardless of changes in federal law.
Clinton, appearing with the governor at a rally at Barnard College in Manhattan, said the Senate and Assembly, which are now both controlled by Democrats, should waste no time in approving the legislative packages.
“Together, New York can build on the progress that has been made in reducing rates for unintended and teen pregnancies and ensure everyone has the opportunity to choose a method of birth control based on what’s best for them, not just what’s least expensive,” she said.
Cuomo said he will go one step further and push for a constitutional amendment that would protect a woman’s right to choose. Such a change would require approval from both Albany houses and from the voters through a referendum.
“We’ll able to say we’ve protected women’s rights in a way no one has been able to do before,” Cuomo said.
A representative for senate Republicans didn’t respond to a request for comment.
New York’s abortion laws were written in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, and have not been updated to include some of the provisions granted in that Supreme Court decision. The Trump Administration also has issued several policies restricting reproductive health, including giving organizations exemptions from covering contraception in their health insurance plans.
The RHA would repeal the New York State law that criminalizes abortions and give more licensed health professionals the right to perform an abortion. The bill would also allow abortions in cases where “there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”
The Contraceptive Care Act would require health insurance companies to include contraceptive medications, products and services in their policies without “imposing any cost-sharing requirements or other restrictions or delays.”
Cuomo said he wanted the reproductive rights protections approved within the first 30 days of the new year and threatened to not approve the state’s budget in April if the bills aren’t passed by then. Last week, state Democrats reintroduced the bills and vowed pass them by Jan. 22 — the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who attended the rally, said Senate and Assembly Democrats are determined to get the bills to the governor’s desk.
“We are moving forward. Don’t stop us. Don’t try to make us look backward,” she said at the rally.