A battle over abortion rights may be brewing in the state Capitol as Governor Andrew Cuomo gears up to push his women's equality agenda. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Advocates for women's rights held a press conference in Albany on Tuesday to support Governor Andrew Cuomo's 10-point equality agenda. It is hard to know how far the Cuomo's proposal will go in expanding abortion rights, because his office has not made the bill public.
"We are hoping that the governor will send us his legislation as quickly as possible, so we can begin the business of looking at it, vetting it, making sure there are no mistakes, because sometimes there are mistakes with legislation," said state Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island.
An unscripted moment at the press conference underscored just how contentious the debate may be in Albany this year.
A pro-choice supporter told an opponent of the bill, "You do realize the Reproductive Health Act is not expanding abortions or changing any if that."
The anti-abortion activist answered, "That's actually not true. It's not true. If you look at the Reproductive Health Act, it would allow non-doctors to perform surgical abortions. That expands abortion."
In a radio interview for WCNY-AM, the governor made some of his strongest comments to date in favor of his equality act, saying lawmakers either support abortion rights or they don't.
"I think many of the legislators want to have it both ways. They want to be apparently pro-choice but they don't want to take a vote that's going to call into question because they want to be pro-choice but they don't want to be on the other side of the Conservative party," Cuomo said.
Supporters want to see the Reproductive Health Act as one single bill grouped in with other aspects of the equality agenda, which includes pay equity among other issues.
Opponents want the abortion component taken out.
"I think there is a lot of room with the other nine issues, nine that we can effectively negotiate and come to a resolution before the end of the legislative session," said state Senate Conference Leader Dean Skelos.
Some say whether the bill is allowed to come to the senate floor will be a big test for state Senator Jeff Klein, an Independent Democrat who controls the senate agenda with Republicans.
"We'll also see how that coalition in the senate winds up functioning. I think there will be a lot of clarity on major issues for the state," Cuomo said in his radio interview.
Cuomo has said he does not plan on releasing bill language until there is agreement. But when the issue of abortion comes into the public debate, the absolutes on both sides rarely find common ground.