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Senate And Assembly Candidates Spar Over Women's Equality Act

Lucas Willard

The candidates for New York’s 49th Senate and 112th Assembly districts debated in Saratoga County last night. The two Democrats vying for the seats long held by Republican incumbents both focused their messages on the women’s equality agenda.

At the voter forums hosted by the Saratoga County League of Women Voters and sponsored by the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce at Ballston Spa High School, the first item in Democratic Senate candidate Madelyn Thorne’s opening remarks was her support for the passage of the full Women’s Equality Act, including the provision to protect abortion rights.

“I support all 10 points of the Women’s Equality Act. I have lived my adult life with choice, I will make sure my daughters and granddaughters are afforded the same respect,” said Thorne.

Thorne is again facing off against 38-year incumbent Republican Hugh Farley after being handily defeated in 2012.

Voters more than once asked questions on women’s rights and the stalled Women’s Equality Act. In addition to codifying Roe v. Wade into the state constitution, the legislation also includes provisions for pay equity and workplace fairness, fighting human trafficking, and domestic violence prevention.

In the last session, the Assembly-approved 10-point plan was sent to the Republican and Independent Democrat-controlled Senate. The Senate approved nine out of 10 points, but sent the abortion bill to committee.

The Democrat-led Assembly then did not move forward the nine agreed-upon points.

Senator Farley, who represents the second-largest district in New York, including parts of Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton, Hamilton and Herkimer counties, said he agrees with the abortion provision’s language to allow abortions in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is endangered, but said the bill’s approach to mental health is too vague.

“The health of the mother includes mental health, that’s a very wide opening gap. A myriad of reasons, mental health could be anxiety, it could be a lot of things. And that opens the door to late-term abortion, which is outlawed in this state.”

Farley claimed he voted against the abortion provision; however, there was a brief dispute between the candidates, members of the crowd, and moderator Barb Thomas over whether the abortion provision ever came to a vote on the Senate floor.

The abortion provision was referred to the Senate Rules committee in June.

Meanwhile, during the debate between 112th District Assemblyman James Tedisco, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Jared Hickey, Hickey also pledged his support of the full Women’s Equality act on more than one occasion.

“This is a pledge I don’t take likely. I’ll be fighting each and every day in order to pass each of those tenets.”

Tedisco, who has been in the Assembly since 1983, blamed Assembly Democrats for stalling the act’s other protections.

“To hold up 90 percent of a women’s equality piece of legislation because you can’t get the votes for something that’s never going to happen is not only politicizing it, it’s extremism.”

The candidates also discussed campaign finance, reviving the upstate economy, and public corruption.

While the Assembly is expected to remain heavily Democratic, the makeup of the Senate hangs in the balance. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, upon his Working Families Party endorsement, called on the Independent Democratic Conference to rejoin the mainline Democrats, which could put both chambers in control of the Democrats. But a surge by Republicans could keep the Senate under GOP control without the aid of the power-sharing agreement with the IDC.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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