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It was all or nothing; Women got nothing

By Fritz Mayer
July 10, 2013

ALBANY, NY — Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Woman’s Equality Act (WEA) contained 10 planks of legislation, which included strengthening laws regarding equal pay for equal work, sexual harassment and discrimination and human trafficking. One of the planks regarded abortions, and that plank brought the whole act down.

Supporters of the abortion plank said it did nothing more than codify the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision of the United States Supreme Court and was supported by a majority of the Democratically controlled Assembly. Opponents on the other hand said the plank expanded abortion rights, and it was opposed by many Senators.

The Assembly voted on the 10 planks all together on June 27, and it passed by a vote of 97 to 47. But there weren’t enough votes in the Senate to pass the entire package, because of the abortion plank, so Cuomo broke the bill up into 10 separate bills and the Senate voted to pass nine of the 10 on June 28.

At the time Senator Bonacic said, “I was always a little annoyed, if that’s the word, that the 10th point, which was the expansion of late-term abortions, was made part of advancing the women’s agenda.” Cuomo said he would sign the nine bills if they crossed his desk.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “Nine is not enough,” and he refused to let the nine bills go to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.

That brought a sharp response from some Republican women members of the Assembly. At a press conference, assemblywoman Claudia Tenney asked, “Wouldn’t it be smarter to bring all 10 pieces of legislation for us to vote on and then put the pressure on the Senate to bring the 10th piece to the floor and put the pressure on the Senate to vote on it? Why isn’t that a strategy that they’re considering so that we actually get something done?”

Assemblywoman Nicole Mallsiotokis asked, “Why do we have to run this House like it’s a dictatorship, that we can’t have a democracy, and vote on each piece of legislation separately? Why can’t we just debate and discuss each one?”

The session ended with no action from the Assembly, although they could be called back to vote on the 10 bills separately. Members of the coalition of the 280 organizations that support the WEA are split on whether the Assembly should be pressured to consider the 10 bills separately, or the Senate should be pressured to consider the 10th bill alone, which it did not do.