Cuomo Stirs Up Abortion Debate

June 4, 2013 Updated Jun 5, 2013 at 7:35 AM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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June 4, 2013 Updated Jun 5, 2013 at 7:35 AM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is pushing the "Women's Equality Act" -- a ten-point plan he says levels the playing field.

The first nine points include cracking down on sexual abuse and domestic violence, human trafficking laws, equal pay opportunities and stopping pregnancy discrimination.

The Diocese of Buffalo says it supports all of those points.

However, point number ten has some, including the Diocese of Buffalo, on edge -- because it could change state abortion laws in New York.

New York State abortion laws have not changed since 1970 -- three years before the famous Roe vs. Wade decision.

Governor Cuomo says that his proposal would update New York State law to match federal law. However, pro-life advocates worry it could have bigger impacts.

At a press conference, Cuomo stated, "NY protects a women's rights to obtain an abortion, when the fetus is not viable -- or when necessary to protect a woman's life or health as determined by a licensed physician."

The word "health" worries some pro-life advocates.

Cheryl Calire, the Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Diocese of Buffalo explains, "it's written in such a broad brush stroke, the health of the mother can be something as simple as somebody mentally able at this time to care for a child, or economically it didn't fit into the picture."

Pro-life advocates worry that Cuomo's plan encourages cases like that of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who performed late term-abortions and killing babies born alive.

This fear is heightened now, because the legislation would allow abortions past 24 weeks, if the woman's life or health is at risk.

"Many pregnancies that have that week gestation can actually survive outside the womb with care," Calire says.

Calire also says the wording in this act would decriminalize the killing of a fetus, even if it is shortly before delivery. That is something Cuomo's office denies.

Cuomo's administration actually says nothing would change in practice.

"The language will affirm a woman's right," the Governor says. "There is no extension. The fear-mongering is just that, it's fear-mongering."

That leaves many wondering -- why would he call for this legislation at all?

Cuomo says it's a preventative measure, in case Roe v. Wade is ever overturned. His office is also showing a stance against six other states that have passed anti-abortion bills in the last two years.

The Governor will now pose this question to state ladwmakers: "This is very simple -- are you pro-choice, or are you not pro-choice? That's the question."

However, Calire asks, "if it didn't pass as a stand-alone before, why would New Yorkers want to pass it now?"

Governor Cuomo says he is confident the act will pass the New York State Legislature. However, analysts are not so sure.

The Catholic League has called the move "political suicide" for Cuomo. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York also criticized the plan.