ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to begin his last major push Tuesday for his proposal to strengthen abortion rights even as Senate opposition builds.
Cuomo drew swift opposition in January after he issued his rousing, repeated battle cry of: "Because it's her body, it's her choice!" in his State of the State address that ignited supporters seeking expansion of abortion rights. But Cuomo has framed his proposal as simply protecting the current rights under the Roe v. Wade court decision in 1973, which is widely supported in public opinion polls and in the Senate and Assembly.
Women's rights activists rallying Tuesday in Albany will try to box opponents in politically by arguing that if they oppose Cuomo's measure, they oppose Roe v. Wade.
"The women's equality bill language has been crafted in a way that creates a real litmus test on Roe v. Wade for members of both parties, making it impossible to vote against for anyone who wants to say they support a woman's right to choose," said Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing.
Cuomo, however, still hasn't released his bill which would require him to detail his position. That has so far limited debate among lawmakers and left the public guessing.
But the issue is complex.
New York state law enacted three years before Roe v. Wade allows late-term abortions after 24 weeks only when a woman's life is danger. The 1973 federal law allows late-term abortions if a woman's health is danger — a lower hurdle.
Although New York hospitals and health care professionals follow the federal law, critics say the state's more restrictive state law has a chilling effect on physicians and patients. The state law carries criminal penalties.
Supporters of Cuomo's proposal also see a need to protect women in the event Roe v. Wade is struck down by a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court.
"We haven't seen the governor's proposal yet, but we do know that it's either an extreme measure to expand late-term abortion or an unnecessary and purely political maneuver," said Kelly Cummings, spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans who share control of the chamber and can block a bill from a floor vote.
The Senate Republicans have helped enact New York's abortion rights laws, but they are being pressured by the state Conservative Party and the Catholic bishops to oppose any expansion of abortion.
Nationally, New York is running counter to trends. The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions across the nation, found most states in the last two years have sought to further restrict or ban abortions.
In Albany, the Rev. Jason McGuire of the conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms sees growing opposition among Republicans and Democrats.
"There's a huge difference between saving a woman's life and a very broad interpretation of 'a woman's health,'" said McGuire, who plans a lobbing day opposing the measure on June 12. "Where there are children in need of homes, we'll find them," he said. "We don't need to expand abortion."
Democrats are feeling heat, too.
"We are going to need a bipartisan bill because there are not enough Senate Democrats who support a woman's right to choose," said Eric Soufer, spokesman for the Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC runs the Senate in a power-sharing agreement with Republicans
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday that his Democratic majority supports the concepts in Cuomo's proposal.
"Women's health is not a Republican or Democratic issue," said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who leads the Senate's traditional Democratic conference. "The women of New York deserve a vote."
The legislative session ends June 20.