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Some legislators move to break apart 10-point NY women’s agenda, avoid gridlock over abortion bill

ALBANY -- A powerful assemblywoman is breaking away two women’s rights measures from a 10-point women’s agenda that has stalled for a second year over conflict about its abortion plank.

Assemb. Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) on Monday called for separate votes on proposals to protect pregnant women from discrimination at work and another to further combat human trafficking. Each are part of the 10-point women’s agenda proposed a year ago by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“We have to put politics aside,” Paulin said Monday. “It’s about process right now and I’m sure there’s a means to this end.”

There was no immediate comment Monday from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) who, backed by the chamber’s women members, refused to separate items last year in Cuomo’s women’s rights agenda.

Last year, Senate Republicans, who share control of that chamber, had agreed to pass all but the 10th measure, which would have further protected the right to late-term abortions.

In the end, none of the pieces were passed into law despite overwhelming support for nine of the 10 measures.

“It’s time to protect women, not hold politics above that,” Paulin said Monday.

One of the members of Cuomo’s coalition of women’s rights groups who last year committed to the 10-point package also supported votes on individual bills Monday.

“It has never been the Women’s Equality Coalition ... that it is an all-or-nothing deal,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women New York City.

Women Democrats last year refused to break apart the measures because they were all negotiated together, meaning some of the issues were compromised to gain support for others. The abortion piece alone would have faced no chance in the Senate.

“We’re in this gridlock right now and it’s two years out that we have to talk about it,” Ossorio said, supporting a vote on Paulin’s separate bills.

 “I know that’s uncomfortable for some people, but that’s where we are,” she said. “We hit that wall. We have to make the decision. Are we going to move forward on some essential bills that have already been negotiated three ways or are we going to walk about from that completely and end up with absolutely nothing?”

Senate Republicans aren’t considering the 10-point package as a single bill.

 “I think we are focused on specific bills and not getting into this larger debate that is clouding the politics,” Senate Health Committee chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said.

There was no immediate comment from Cuomo.

Paulin highlighted the need to enact her bill with Hannon that would require employers to make reasonable concessions to pregnant workers. Those measures could be as simple as providing breaks for water or food or use of a restroom or to providing a stool to sit on.

Supporters said pregnant women have been fired from their jobs rather than assigned to less strenuous duty or given help in avoiding the choice between keeping a job or protecting their pregnancies.

Violation of the measure would be an “unlawful discriminatory practice.” The state could sanction the employer with fines and restore a job for anyone found to be unjustly fired.

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