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Supporters Of Abortion Rights Measure Put It Aside For Now To Fight Another Day

Kathy Hochul
Karen DeWitt

State lawmakers are moving ahead with approving some portions of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, now that  supporters are no longer demanding that all of the items, including an abortion rights provision, be tied together.

Governor Cuomo campaigned last fall , along with his running mate, and now Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on passing all ten of the provisions in his Women’s Equality Act,  including a measure to codify into state law the rights included in the federal Roe v Wade decision.

Hochul, who presided over an anti campus sexual assault forum at the Capitol , says she’s simply facing political realities, like the takeover of the State Senate by Republicans in the November elections.

“Elections have consequences,” said Hochul said, who said the Senate “does not see fit” to include the abortion provision at this time.

“It’s time to move on,” she said.

Later, in an interview, Hochul said that she still cares very deeply about the issue of abortion rights.

“I’m  absolutely not giving up on this issue,” said Hochul who said the measure simply updates New York’s laws on abortion to make them consistent with current standards.

“I don’t understand why it’s so controversial,” she said.

Lieutenant Governor Hochul says she’s willing to personally lobby Senators to try to win some votes for the measure.

A spokeswoman for Governor Cuomo says the governor has introduced his Women’s Equality Act as a single package and also as individual measures. Spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa says “the only thing that’s changed is the dynamics of the Assembly.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie confirms that the views of Assembly Democrats have changed, and that the women in the conference drove the decision to decouple the abortion rights measure from other women’s rights issues.    

“I try to be member driven and this is the direction we want to go in,” Heastie said.

But Heastie says Assembly Democrats “overwhelmingly” back all ten points of the women’s Equality Act and even plan to add more provisions of their own.

Abortion rights groups, are also willing to move on , for now. Andrea Miller, with NARAL Pro Choice says she’s taking a long term view.

“We’re looking ahead,” said Miller. “I continue to believe that being prochoice in New York State is a non partisan issue and my hope would be that there are some members of the Senate who want to get on board with that.”

The Assembly approved new measures cracking down on human trafficking. One of the bills is the same as one passed earlier this year in the Senate, and could become law with the  governor’s  signature.

Other provisions still require negotiation, including separate measures in the Assembly and Senate to provide paid Family leave to New York’s workers.

Senate Republicans who have called the abortion rights measure “extreme” and unnecessary, point out that they have already approved the other nine points in the women’s equality act, including pay equality and protection again pregnancy discrimination.

But Senate Leader Dean Skelos, in a statement, praised Speaker Heastie for decoupling the measures , saying the Speaker “signaled the importance of putting progress ahead of politics.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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