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Ciolli: Andrew Cuomo's abortion reform push will come down to the wire

Opponents to expanded abortion rights in New York

Opponents to expanded abortion rights in New York state hold signs at the Capitol on Wednesday in Albany. Part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 10-point women's rights legislation aims to codify the federal Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights into state law. (June 12, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo promised in his January State of the State Address that a women’s equity agenda would be his signature legislative initiative this session. Despite an aggressive push, such as the one he used to get a vote on same-sex marriage in 2011, he may wind up with only nine laws -- and the 10th turned into a potent weapon for the 2014 election.

Cuomo’s original omnibus bill addressed pay equity, sexual harassment in the workplace, stronger order-of-protection laws and insurance that abortion remain available in New York, regardless of whether the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or severely limits abortion under Roe. v. Wade. Now, instead of one sweeping bill to advance the rights of women, 10 separate ones were introduced in the State Senate minutes before Tuesday night’s deadline. While Cuomo is not giving up on a floor vote on abortion in the Senate, he’s determined to get a head count of who’s pro-choice.

Republicans who share control of the chamber with the breakaway Independent Democratic Coalition said no on abortion right from the start.

After getting pilloried by the Conservative Party for allowing same-sex marriage to come to the floor for a vote in 2011, Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he would not have a vote on the “Women’s Equity Act.” Skelos said the other nine measures were fine but dismissed the abortion plank as unnecessary. The procedure is legal and safe in New York, so there's no need to consider the measure, he argues.

And to the dismay of Democrats and women’s groups, the IDC headed by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) is bowing to Skelos in order to keep its tentative grip on power.

Earlier Tuesday, Cuomo and his allies were faced with either letting the “Women’s Equity Act” go down entirely, or locking in the other nine provisions and returning next year with the abortion bill. By Wednesday morning, the ball was in the other court: There are 10 separate pieces of legislation; the abortion one is sponsored by Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island, Bklyn) and a member of the IDC.

Republicans now are faced with either blocking the bill from coming to the floor or allowing the abortion vote. “A non-vote is a no vote,” Cuomo told reporters this afternoon previewing the campaign strategy women's groups are threatening to use in next year’s election.

Plan to stay up late Thursday night and watch the live stream of the Senate action for the drama on how this one plays out.


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