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Albany Democrats Uncertain If Abortion Issue Could Stall Gender Equality Bill

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to introduce his women's equality bill this week, but his insistence on including an abortion provision is dividing lawmakers, and not just along party lines. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

The women's equality agenda proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo has 10 points, including pay equity, anti-human trafficking measures and domestic violence prevention. It is also expected to include an abortion provision that many Republicans oppose.

"The package is a 10-point package. It has been presented as a 10-point package. We have discussed all of the points," said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the state Senate Democratic Conference Leader.

But it is the disagreement among Democrats on abortion that could ultimately sideline the bill. Members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, which forms a coalition with Republicans to control the State Senate, believe the abortion provision doesn't necessarily need to be included.

"Protecting a woman's right to make decisions for her and her family, they will never be overblown. But I hope they don't get lost in what has now been determined to be almost a political litmus test," said state Senator Diane Savino, an IDC member. "If you are not for it then you are against all the other issues I just outlined. That would be a real tragedy."

Members of the IDC say Democrats who want to keep it all as one bill do not have the full support of their own members. At least two mainline Democrats oppose it.

"I know that not all Democrats in the conference will be on the bill. But I do know that the majority of Democrats in our conference will be supporting the rights of New York's women," said Stewart-Cousins.

For now, the governor is expected to keep the 10 points, including the abortion language, all as one bill.

"I am not going to characterize why the governor is doing this and whether it is a mistake or not," Savino said.

The bill is expected to easily pass the State Assembly.

"We have very little difficulty with most of the concepts that are there, if not all of the concepts that are part of the women's equality agenda. In fact, the assembly had passed significant portions of it in the past," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The legislative session marred by scandal has lowered expectations about what can actually pass. Some believe the abortion provision is a poison pill for the women's equality agenda, and it will need to be taken out if any of it is going to pass.

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