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Cuomo Introduces Bill Strengthening Abortion Rights In NY

Opponents Say Legislation Unnecessary

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) –  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saw an immediate pushback from religious groups Tuesday, as he took on a contentious – and some say unnecessary – fight to change abortion laws.

As CBS 2 Marcia Kramer reported, the bill Cuomo released Tuesday detailed his women’s rights proposal for the first time since he announced the initiative six months ago.

Cuomo said he simply wants to put federal protections under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision into state law in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark decision that made abortion legal.

Currently, New York State only allows late-term abortions if a woman’s life is at risk. The new bill would allow for late-term abortions — after 24 weeks of pregnancy — to protect women’s health rather than only their lives.

In announcing the bill, Cuomo armed himself with an impressive array of women’s rights groups, as he prepared to battle with the state Legislature over the issues.

“The governor’s plan will preserve a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions here in New York,” said Andrea Miller of NARAL NY. “It is her body, her choice.”

The bill is largely a symbolic gesture, since federal law already allows third trimester abortions under such circumstances. But the “symbolic gesture” is already generating much heat.

“I’m saying this is political suicide. I’m saying that he’s basically aborted his presidential bid,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “After all, you have a man who is a Catholic, who’s living with a woman outside of wedlock, who is in favor of two men getting married, who now wants to have abortion in the late term.”

Some opponents also said the move would expand abortion.

“There’s clearly no need for this,” Lori Kehoe with New York State Right to Life told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “There’s no other way to think about this other than that this is all about the governor’s run for president.”

But women’s rights and civil liberties advocates said Cuomo was making the right move.

“This piece of the act has 80 percent approval across all demographics – across both parties, across all religions, over the state,” said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “And it shouldn’t be controversial in the Legislature. And it is not controversial at all for the women’s organizations.”

Some said the Catholic governor decided to take on the emotional hot potato to pander to women in a desire to run up his vote totals when he runs for re-election next year, and burnish his progressive credentials should he run for president.

Cuomo said his agenda is simply securing women’s rights.

“It’s fear-mongering,” Cuomo said. “There is a simplicity and a clarity to the ‘choice’ language. You’re pro-choice or you are not pro-choice.”

The women’s rights agenda would also strengthen order of protection laws, increase penalties for those convicted of human trafficking, and provide pay equity for men and women.

Lawmakers favor much of the agenda, but the abortion plank remains a stumbling block. Cuomo’s efforts to make light of the upcoming battle drew laughter.

“I’m not bracing for a fight. I’m looking for amicable resolutions wherever possible,” he said.

The challenge for the governor, and the women’s groups that support him, will be getting enough votes to pass the bill. It will be intense, since the legislative session is scheduled to end by the end of the month.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)