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Debate over abortion re-ignited with Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Debate over abortion re-ignited with Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act
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Governor Andrew Cuomo has re-ignited the debate over abortion here in New York with his Women's Equality Act. The proposal is causing problems for the fragile coalition government in the State Senate. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman explains.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Republicans in the State Senate have allowed votes legalizing same-sex marriage and to tighten New York's gun control laws, all measures supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo. But the popular governor's push to expand women's rights, with the Reproductive Health Act at its core, may be too far for the GOP's base.

“When I see the expansion of partial birth abortion coming from the radical left, it's an extreme measure and I don't think it's absolutely necessary,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said.

Those who back the law saying the Women's Reproductive Health Act merely updates the state's abortion laws. But abortion opponents say it goes too far and after two years of largely backing Cuomo's legislative agenda, the conservative base is pushing back.

“The base is really just rising up and saying, you know what, we really do want to stand with our allies, we're anxious to stand with them on key issues, this is one of them,” said Jason McGuire, Livingston County Conservative Party Chairman.

Republicans this year entered into a power-sharing agreement in the State Senate with five independent Democrats. Though the GOP is technically outnumbered in the chamber, the agreement requires both Republican Leader Dean Skelos and IDC Leader Jeff Klein to mutually agree on bills that come up for votes. Klein supports abortion rights, but said in a testy exchange with reporters that the mainline Democratic conference doesn't have the votes to pass it.

Klein said, “I think one of the things that has to be said if you're a Democrat, especially if you're a New York Democrat, you have to be pro-choice. And I've said this on numerous occasions, we need to figure out a way that this becomes a litmus test.”

Democratic Senators Tim Kennedy and Ruben Diaz are both opposed to abortion, though Klein has supported Kennedy through a political action committee. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she hopes the women's agenda, which includes pay equity and tougher laws for domestic abuse, gains Republican support.

“I don't want to preclude Republicans from wanting to improve the lives of women and in context when people realize the facts and realize the hurdles that women face. I'm hoping that this will definitely be a bipartisan support of the women of New York State,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Cuomo, meanwhile, unveiled Tuesday a coalition of more than 200 groups backing the Women's Equality Act.

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