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Local News

April 27, 2013

Cuomo's abortion bid stirs debate

COOPERSTOWN — More than four months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out a “women’s agenda” that would strengthen abortion rights and equalize pay between men and women, state lawmakers and interest groups say they are still waiting for specifics of those proposals.

Although there are less than two months remaining in the current legislative session in Albany, Cuomo has not released the 10-point agenda in printed legislation.

Of the proposals touted by Cuomo in his State of the State speech, the one that has garnered the most attention — and stirred up the most controversy — is his call for what the state Catholic Conference calls “a radical expansion” of abortion rights.

That measure, according to its backers, is expected to strengthen abortion protections and cut out language from the Penal Law dealing with abortions while inserting it into public health laws.

The New York chapter of the National Organization for Women said the Cuomo proposal “will bring our state law into alignment with current federal law so that women are guaranteed access to abortion if their life or health is in danger. It will also take the regulation of abortion out of our criminal laws, and put it into the public health law where it belongs.”

Even though Cuomo has not released the sweeping legislation he says he would like to enact, his support for the stronger abortion protections has divided the state Senate. The upper house of the Legislature had already bottled up similar proposals, including one that had been advocated by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer, in fact, was about to meet with Roman Catholic bishops on the measure in 2008 when the sitdown was suddenly canceled because the New York Times reported that he had been implicated in an embarrassing prostitution scandal. He resigned from office within days.

Complicating the current debate is the fact that the Senate is ruled by a coalition of the Republican senators and a breakaway cadre of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC). One of them, Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, was recently indicted on multiple federal corruption charges in one of the worst scandals to hit Albany in the past decade. While both the mainstream Democrats and the IDC Democrats have signaled their support for stronger abortion protections, GOP leaders have called the proposal extreme.

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