Women's Equality Act derailed on last day of session

Posted at: 06/22/2013 1:03 AM
Updated at: 06/22/2013 1:22 AM
By: Steve Flamisch

ALBANY -- On the final day of the legislative session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 10-point Women's Equality Act came down to all-or-nothing.

The result was nothing.

The state Senate passed nine points of the governor's plan -- including enhanced enforcement of the Equal Pay Act, stronger anti-discrimination, human trafficking, and sexual harrassment laws -- but Republican leaders refused to take-up the tenth point, the Women's Reproductive Health Act.

The controversial measure would amend state law to allow late-term abortion when the mother's health is in danger. Current law only allows late-term abortion when the mother's life is in danger.

Top Senate Republicans, who have said the change would lead to more abortions statewide, did not bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D - Manhattan), whose chamber passed the complete 10-point plan the day before, declined to break apart the legislation and re-introduce the other nine points without the abortion plank.

Since the Assembly and Senate packages do not match, nothing heads to the governor's desk for a chance to become law.

"I think the Assembly should be ashamed of themselves," Sen. Jeff Klein (D - Bronx) said.

At one point, Klein introduced a "hostile amendment" that would have attached the abortion plank to an unrelated Senate bill dealing with medical records. His procedural move was defeated by a vote of 32-31, with two downstate Democrats and all 30 Senate Republicans voting no.

Sen. Betty Little (R - Queensbury) voted against the hostile amendment, but voted for the nine points of the Women's Equality Act that do not concern abortions. She criticized Silver for refusing to separately tackle the other nine points.

"It's a shame because there are nine good things in these bills, and we could have some help for women in New York State and we're talking about women's rights," Little said. "Just because you can't agree on the tenth one (doesn't mean) you should throw the other nine out. It's not fair."

Assembly Member Patricia Fahy (D - Albany) contended the all-or-nothing approach is the only way to go.

"For us to take the nine -- as important as those are -- and leave one essential thing sends a really wrong message, especially on reproductive health," Fahy said. "It would send the message that even in New York women are wavering, and politicians across the board are wavering on women's reproductive health."

Fahy and other women in the Assembly's Democratic conference met Friday with Speaker Silver and Gov. Cuomo in the Capitol's Red Room. She said Cuomo was "cordial" and did not criticize them for refusing to break out the other nine points of his agenda.

Barring a special session, the Women's Equality Act is dead until the next legislative session begins in 2014.