Cuomo’s vow was not exactly new. But the pageantry of the occasion seemed to reflect the circumstances that had prompted it: a Legislature newly controlled by Democrats raring to broaden reproductive rights, and a federal government increasingly looking to rein them in, all against the backdrop of a state with abortion laws that are not as liberal as many perceive them to be.
“The Republican Senate said, ‘You don’t need a state law codifying Roe v. Wade. No administration would ever roll back Roe v. Wade,'” Cuomo said at the event at Barnard College, describing why previous efforts had languished for so long. “So help me God, this was the conversation.”
That Republican-led state Senate is no more, ousted in November in favor of an overwhelming Democratic majority and the chamber’s first-ever female leader. The federal administration, meanwhile, is indeed seeking to roll back Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion: President Donald Trump has appointed two conservative judges to the Supreme Court.
New York’s abortion laws have not been updated since 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. They do not include some provisions that Roe v. Wade guaranteed, including permission for a late-term abortion to preserve the health of the mother. Other states allow abortions late in the pregnancy when the fetus is not viable, an exception that New York does not make.
A bill known as the Reproductive Health Act, which has the strong support of the Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, would create exceptions for the mother’s health or the fetus’ viability. It would also move New York’s abortion regulations from the penal code to the health code, recognizing abortion as a public health issue rather than a crime from which the state had carved out exclusions, said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.