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June 4, 2013

Cuomo pushing abortion proposal amid obstacles

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.

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