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Cuomo bus trip calls attention to abortion rights; GOP calls tour a 'red herring'

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, on

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, on Jan. 8, 2014 in Albany, and his Republican opponent Rob Astorino on March 7, 2014 in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY — Democrat Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set out Saturday on a “Women’s Equality” tour upstate to emphasize his support for abortion rights and Republican challenger Rob Astorino’s opposition.

“You don’t support a right to choose,” Cuomo said of abortion-rights opponents during a rally at an Albany labor hall, kicking off his first tour of his re-election campaign. “We support the right to choose. And that’s what this is about.”

Republicans countered that the Democrat was using abortion as a distraction to avoid talking about a sexual harassment scandal in the state Assembly and other issues. Assemb. Steve McLaughlin (R-Schaghticoke), who headlined a counter demonstration outside, said Cuomo was using Roe v. Wade issues as a “red herring.”

Cuomo, who enjoys a large lead over Astorino in the polls, boarded a bus — with the words “Women’s Equality Express” painted on its side — that started in Albany and was bound for Syracuse and Rochester to highlight his support for a 10-point agenda that included many proposals with overwhelming support, such as reducing human trafficking and domestic violence and ending workplace discrimination.

Cuomo introduced the plan during the 2014 legislative session but its chances were sunk because of one proposal to codify abortion rights under Roe v. Wade into state law. Senate Republicans said they would pass every proposal except the abortion one; Democrats insisted on passing all 10 at once until very late in the session and then adjourned for the year without compromise.

At the Albany rally, Cuomo told Democrats, labor groups and Planned Parenthood supporters that New York couldn’t assume abortion rights will always be protected.

“The U.S. Supreme Court could reverse Roe v. Wade,” Cuomo said. “So we want Roe v. Wade in the New York law.”

Cuomo also talked about workplace discrimination and domestic violence — chastising the NFL's handling of the issue, though not singling out the Ray Rice controversy by name.

Republicans trailed Cuomo in a van they dubbed the “Shelly Silver Express” to dog the governor about a sexual harassment scandal in the state Assembly. Speaker Sheldon Silver acknowledged in 2012 that he agreed to use $103,000 in state funds to secretly settle harassment claims filed against now-former Brooklyn assemblyman Vito Lopez. Some Republicans called on Silver to resign and some criticized Cuomo for not moving to oust the speaker.

“He could have taken a stand against sexual assault by calling on Shelly Silver to resign,” McLaughlin said of Cuomo.

Astorino opposes abortion rights but has said he would not seek to overturn federal protections.

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