The Campaign to Hide Abortion Expansion behind ‘Women’s Equality’

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Coalition: Women’s equality more than just abortion” is how one report summed up a convergence upon Albany, N.Y. earlier this week of proponents of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Women’s Equality” agenda. The newly formed New York Women’s Equality Coalition made the case at a press conference that the agenda consists of more than abortion by insisting that the radical Reproductive Rights Act — which as it currently stands would expand abortion access in the state — remain a part of it.

It is, of course, in the best interest of coalition members, who include the National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood, that the RHA, which in its current form would allow non-physicians to perform invasive abortions, not be considered separately. On its own, the Reproductive Health Act would likely fail. Access to abortion is far from a problem in New York, and when you point out the abysmally high abortion rates in the state to New Yorkers, they question why this is a priority of the governor’s.

In remarks to the press, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos raised the alarm about the non-physician and late-term-abortion-expansion aspects of the governor’s push. The governor has tried to keep details vague by having aides suggest that his version of the legislation may look different from what has been previously proposed. But neither his own campaign-like rhetoric in regard to abortion nor his coalition allies suggest a scale-back of some of the more extreme lifting of protections in a state with few limits on abortion as it is. His state of the state address earlier this year “reached a crescendo” as the Associated Press put it, when he said: “Enact a Reproductive Health Act because it is her body, it is her choice. Because it’s her body, it’s her choice. Because it’s her body, it’s her choice.”

Her choice to abort is not at issue in New York. Support for information and alternatives would expand actual choice.

Among those opposed to the governor’s insistence that the RHA be lumped in with the governor’s larger women’s equality agenda are Democrats for Life. Former Republican governor George Pataki, who has been an advocate of legal abortion is also opposed to the Reproductive Health Act. “I don’t think it should be controversial. It should just be rejected,’’ he said. “This is partial-birth abortion. . . . It is the wrong thing to do, and I hope that the legislature in its wisdom takes a hard look at this and decides that New York should not.’’ As some doctors will tell you, taking a step back from the Reproductive Health Act is only healthy. Be wary of those who are in a rush to hide abortion expansion under the guise of “equality.”

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