Women's Equality Act protects abortion rights, doesn't expand them

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Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed Women's Equality Act has come under fire because of its language about abortion.

Right now, abortion is regulated through the state's penal law. Cuomo says his legislation would simply write into law the rights guaranteed under the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision and remove regulation of abortions from the penal law. But anti-abortion rights groups — and some state legislators — say the governor is trying to expand abortion rights.

But the legislation — only one short section in it relates to abortion — really doesn't read that way. Here's the first paragraph, which is the main component of the abortion law changes:

"The state shall not deny a woman's right to obtain an abortion as established by the United States Supreme Court in the decision Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S.113 (1973). Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, New York protects a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy within twenty-four weeks from commencement of her pregnancy, or when necessary to protect a woman's life or health as determined by a licensed physician."

The legislation also specifically says that nothing in the legislation will conflict with the federal ban on partial-birth abortions.

The governor's legislation is available here and the Assembly's introduced version of the bill — which does not appear to differ — is here. Section J is the portion relevant to abortion rights and laws.

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