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Cuomo, Legislature to pursue reproductive rights protections 

The Reproductive Health Act has passed the state Assembly six times and this year, the state Senate will finally vote on it. Democratic leaders in both the Assembly and Senate expect it to pass, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to swiftly sign it into law.

The Reproductive Health Act will essentially modernize that state's abortion laws and bring them in line with the rights laid out in the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. New York's abortion laws are currently written into the state's penal code, and the medical procedures are allowed as exceptions to criminal charges.  (CITY has written about the RHA several times, and this article from August 2018 provides a breakdown of its major provisions.)

The Reproductive Health Act would make abortion part of the state's Public Health law just like every other medical procedure. It would also allow for advance-practice clinicians such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and physician’s assistants to provide non-surgical abortion care, such as administration of the abortion medication mifepristone, advocates say.  And it would resolve a discrepancy around third-trimester abortions, where state law is actually more restrictive than Roe v. Wade and which has prevented women from terminating pregnancies that weren't viable.

During the same press conference, Cuomo also called on the legislature to take New York's reproductive rights protections a step further than the Reproductive Health Act. He called on it to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee women's reproductive freedom; he didn't get into details on what the amendment should cover.

He wants the legislature to pass the amendment this year. Both chambers of the legislature would have to pass it again after the 2020 elections. The amendment would then be put on the general election ballot for New Yorkers to vote on.

In the past, the Senate's Republican leadership blocked the Reproductive Health Act from coming to the floor for a vote. But Democrats won a solid majority in the chamber this past November, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is not only an enthusiastic supporter of the bill, she's a co-sponsor of it.

“We are moving forward," Stewart-Cousins said during a press conference this morning in support of the bill. "Don’t stop us. Don’t try to make us look backward.”

Democratic leaders also vowed to pass, and Cuomo promised to sign, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act. The bill would require health insurers to provide coverage of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices, and products, according to a memo accompanying the previous version. The bill had Republican support — the sponsor in the last session was former Republican Senator John Bonacic — though it was never brought to a floor vote in the Senate.

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