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Long IslandColumnistsRick Brand

POLITICS & POWER

Move over Tom Suozzi and "Fix Albany." Make room for "Long

Island's dinosaur."

Riffing off Suozzi's anti-Albany efforts, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, a

state group whose initials stand for National Abortion and Reproductive Rights

Action League, is sending postcards this week to 20,000 homes in the 5th Senate

District calling veteran state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) "a dinosaur on

women's health" issues.

The headline on the oversized postcard is "Carl Marcellino is Long Island's

dinosaur." It displays a three-picture sequence with Marcellino as himself,

then morphing into Marcellino's head on a dinosaur body and then a

threatening-looking prehistoric beast.

Marcellino, who has represented the North Shore district that stretches

from Sea Cliff to Northport since 1996, said the group did a similar mailing

against all eight Long Island state senators several years ago, and all were

re-elected nevertheless. The piece, he added, sounds like "nothing but childish

name-calling, and if they want to stoop to that they are only hurting

themselves."

Robert Jaffe, NARAL's deputy director, said the salvo is just the opening

of what the organization plans to be a two-year campaign aimed directly at Long

Island's all-Republican Senate delegation, which is part of a narrow majority

that he said has dragged its feet on a host of abortion rights issues.

"We've been enormously frustrated with the Senate," Jaffe said, in part

because GOP senators have long been tied to the staunchly anti-abortion

Conservative Party and its state leader, Michael Long. "We have to break up

that unholy alliance," Jaffe said.

Long retorted that NARAL is an "extremist left wing" group that has

"demonstrated it could care less for the unborn child." He added that the

mailing might backfire and "stiffen the backs of senators who don't like being

threatened."

Officials of the abortion rights group, however, say their members come

from all political sides and their ranks have swelled since President George W.

Bush has taken a strong anti-abortion stand.

In the past two years alone, Jaffe said the group's paid staff has grown

from eight to 15, its volunteer corps has grown from about 500 to more than

1,100 and its e-mail supporter list, once about 10,000, now exceeds 40,000. He

noted NARAL and Planned Parenthood drew more than 25,000 people in August to a

march protesting Bush and supporting abortion rights at the GOP convention that

started at the Brooklyn Bridge.

NARAL officials say the group's efforts, while not coordinated with any

other group, create a synergy with Suozzi's "Fix Albany" campaign, which is

aimed at relieving counties of Medicaid payments, and with legislative

campaigns across the state that have focused on reform.

"One plus one equals 11," said political consultant Josh Isay, a veteran

Democratic operative who designed the NARAL mailing. "For the first time,

elected officials are going to go back to Albany and they are going to say, 'If

I don't reform, I could lose my job.' And that could be a real impetus for

change."

The NARAL mailing specifically criticizes Marcellino for backing a state

bill "that would send doctors to jail for providing safe abortions even in

cases of rape, incest or when a mother's life is at risk."

Though the mailing does not spell it out, the proposal was a ban on

late-term abortions. Marcellino said that NARAL was "disingenuous" in failing

to adequately describe the legislation and that he stands by his vote for the

bill, calling the procedure "a hideous act."

Marcellino also noted a similar ban was later passed by Congress and became

federal law. "I'm not alone on this," he said.

NARAL officials, however, note that two federal courts have struck down the

law, and the cases are now on appeal.

The mailing also blamed Marcellino for "blocking a bill making it easier

for women to obtain and afford birth control." The measure NARAL referred to

would allow women in New York to obtain emergency contraceptives, also known as

"the morning-after pill," without prescriptions. Marcellino called the claim

"utter nonsense," saying the measure never came up for a vote and he has no

position on it. Jaffe, however, said he was told that Marcellino argued against

the bill in closed meetings of the GOP Senate conference.

Charles Brisbane, a Mattinecock village trustee who is Marcellino's

Democratic opponent, said the mailing displays how Marcellino has failed

voters. "This is a powerful issue for women, and they don't talk about it with

men," said Brisbane. "But you can't claim to be pro-choice and then vote

anti-choice."

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