For the second year in a row, the New York State legislature closed its legislative session without voting on the Women’s Equality Act (WEA). Part of a 10-part legislative package introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in June of 2013, the Act focused on strengthening laws on equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.
Although the State Senate passed nine planks of the WEA as separate bills, the full act ultimately did not move forward because Senate Republicans opposed a provision that would codify Roe v. Wade in the state. The provision would ensure that a woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy and protect providers from prosecution. The State Assembly, which had voted to pass the omnibus WEA in January, then refused to vote on the separate bills unless all 10 of the Act’s planks were passed. The WEA did not pass the Senate last year because of similar conflict over the abortion provision.
“Simply put, we find it shocking that such a straightforward update of our state’s abortion laws – nothing more than codifying Roe - could not garner enough votes to pass in our State Senate, even though 67% of New York voters supported it,” said President of the National Organization for Women of New York City, Sonia Ossorio, in a statement. “While it is disappointing that we were not able to secure a critical update to our abortion law, women still deserve to see progress in other areas of their lives. There is a concrete opportunity to make a difference in the lives of New York’s women and girls – and it is especially critical for women facing poverty, abuse, and discrimination.”
Other planks in the full package include extending protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allowing the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ending employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, and strengthening order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state.
Media Resources: Albany Times-Union 6/22/14; NOW-NYC; The Legislative Gazette 6/20/14; Gothamist 6/22/14; NY Women’s Equality Coalition; Feminist Newswire 1/30/14