Since his campaign to become governor, Andrew Cuomo has made women’s equality a primary item on his agenda. But on Friday, the state Senate stuck a pin in the governor’s balloon, and his push for a Women’s Equality Act will have to wait another day—or year.
Taking an “all or nothing” stance in his 10-point proposal to bolster New York’s provisions against domestic violence, sexual harassment, human trafficking, income disparity and inequality, the governor’s plan is stillborn after the state Senate failed to approve his enhancement of abortion rights in the bill.
Anticipating the bill’s failure because of the measure on abortion rights, the governor and a few other advocates were poised to scrap that provision and settle for the other nine points. But Naral Pro-Choice New York, one of the major players, refused to capitulate, insisting that all the measures be approved.
Basically, Naral was standing by a central component of the Women’s Equality Agenda, assuring that New York’s abortion law provides all the protections in federal precedent and reflects the current medical practice in the state.
“The Women’s Equality Agenda,” Naral said on its website, “will ensure that a woman can make her own health care decisions during pregnancy, especially if her health is in danger.”
Among the other points are a provision to stop pregnancy discrimination once and for all; achieve pay equity; allow for the recovery of attorneys’ fees in employment and credit and lending cases; and end family status discrimination.
Few advocates were more disappointed than Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The bottom line is that the other nine points provide important protections for women in the workplace and in the community,” she explained to the press, “and it’s a disappointment that with such broad support, and such broad bipartisan support, those have yet to become law.”
While the democratically controlled Assembly passed the measure, the Senate, controlled by Republicans, stopped the bill.
Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which shares control of the chamber with Republicans, tried a gambit of attaching the reproductive rights to another bill on medical records. That failed to gain traction.
Andrea Miller, leader of Naral, dismissed Klein’s attempt, charging that it was “feeble … by the IDC to deflect attention from its failure in recent weeks to stand up for the women of New York,” and support the full 10-point bill.
The next action on the bill, according to Cuomo, belongs to voters in 2014, and now they have a sense of where things are in the Legislature and how to respond.