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New York Governor to Introduce Bill to Strengthen Abortion Rights

The debate on abortion is polarizing the US. Striking a blow for the pro-choice sections, New York Eliot Spitzer has said that he would introduce// a bill that would strengthen abortion rights.

Only last week a conservative-dominated Supreme Court upheld 5-4 the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, signed by President Bush in 2003. The ban criminalizes abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy that doctors say are often the safest and best to protect women's health.

There are several other states in US that are moving to tighten restrictions on abortion.

In contrast, Spitzer’s bill, the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, would update current law which, for example, does not include a provision allowing for abortions late in pregnancies to protect a woman’s health.

New York state laws on the books also treat abortion as a homicide, but with broad exceptions that allow the procedure in many cases.

Spitzer’s proposal would remove abortion from criminal statutes and make it a matter of professional and medical discretion. It would also repeal an old statute “that criminalizes, among other things, providing nonprescription contraception to minors,” according to the governor’s office.

“Even if the Supreme Court does not understand the law, we do,” Spitzer said and added, “New York State will continue to be a beacon of civil rights and protection of women’s rights.”

New York’s abortion law, signed in 1970 by Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, a Republican, predates the Roe v. Wade decision by three years and made New York the second state after Hawaii to broadly legalize the procedure and the first to allow abortions for out-of-state residents. In the first two years, more than half the women having abortions came from out of state.

But the law is now considered out of date.

In the circumstances, abortion rights advocates hailed the proposed legislation as a critic al step, but it is also one whose purpose could be seen as insurance if the Supreme Court upholds stricter regulation of abortion.

“New York’s laws have to be impeccable,” said JoAnn Smith, president and chief executive of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. “The Supreme Court said last week that a woman’s health doesn’t matter, and with very carefully crafted legislation today, Governor Spitzer said it does.”

But Lori Kehoe, a spokeswoman for the New York State Right to Life Committee, called the governor “a bully with an insatiable appetite and tunnel vision to accomplish his fierce agenda.”

“We can only hope the Senate will get back their courage and begin to stand up for the children with as much fervor and devotion as Governor Spitzer has shown for making sure they can be destroyed,” she added.

An explosive device was discovered on Thursday in the parking lot of a women's clinic in Austin, Texas, where abortions are performed.

"It was configured in such a way as to cause serious bodily injury or death," Austin Police Assistant Chief David Carter told reporters.

Carter said the device was in a "carry-all type bag", but Austin police and the FBI would not provide more details on the device and its makeup.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force was investigating, Carter added.

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