Lawmakers pass bill to protect abortion rights in New York

ALBANY, New York (WABC) -- New York lawmakers have passed one of the nation's strongest protections for abortion rights, saying the women of New York need legal safeguards if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

The Democrat-led Senate and Assembly passed the bill Tuesday, the 46th anniversary of the Roe decision. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was expected to quickly sign it into law.

"We're saying here in New York women's health matters. We're saying here in New York women's lives matter. We're saying here in New York women's decisions matter," said Democratic NY Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

The bill was first introduced back in 2007 and removes abortion from the state criminal code and ensures women the right to an abortion in New York should that federal right ever be changed by the Supreme Court.

For years, the law would pass the Assembly but fail in the Republican-controlled Senate. That all changed last fall when voters put Democrats firmly in charge in Albany.

"I support this act. It's crucial that we protect a woman's right to choose, particularly at this moment in history, when women's rights are under attack," NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

But Cardinal Dolan called the new law radical.

"It's so important for us to insist that the protection of the baby in the womb is a civil rights issue. It's not a catholic issue. It's not a religious issue. It is a civil rights issue," he said.

The changes in Albany would also require insurance companies to cover contraception for patients and late-term abortions would be legal at the discretion of the doctor or "other" health-care practitioners.

Supporters say the bill is needed to update New York's 1970 law regulating abortion, which was written before the Roe decision legalized abortion nationwide. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the measure.

The 1970 law outlaws abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the pregnant woman's life is at risk. That conflicts with Supreme Court rulings authorizing late-term abortions when a woman's physical or mental health is endangered.

Opponents predict the bill will lead to more late-term procedures.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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