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Cuomo Unveils Women's Equality Act, But Abortion Rights Stir Up Controversy

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Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday introduced an agenda to end gender inequality, including a controversial update to the state's abortion law. Supporters say the bill codifies federal abortion law, while opponents say it expands abortion rights. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

The governor was surrounded by a coalition of women's rights advocates Tuesday as he introduced his bill to enact a ten point women's equality agenda.

"There is a societal bias and discrimination against women, and it is pervasive, and it has been in existence for a long period of time," Cuomo said.

The introduction of the bill coincided with a lobbying day, as supporters of the equality agenda rallied outside the Capitol.

The 10-point plan includes pay equity for women in the workplace, a crackdown on human trafficking and an end to housing discrimination against women.

However, the bill's abortion provision is stirring heated debate.

Actress Cynthia Nixon was at the capitol to promote the bill.

"The idea that anybody is objecting to the reproductive rights plank is ridiculous," Nixon said. "It will change absolutely nothing in New York State."

The Cuomo Administration claimed that the abortion provision merely codifies Roe v Wade. Opponents said it expands abortion.

"As defined under Roe, the health exception is very broad," said Greg Pfundstein of the Chiaroscuro Foundation. "So if you enact that here in New York, codify that here in New York, it seems like you would allow easier access to abortion in the third trimester."

Senate Republicans could block the bill from coming to the floor. In a statement, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos called the abortion plank "a political maneuver designed to curry favor with the extremists who want to expand late-term abortion...and open the door to non-physicians performing abortions."

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York released a statement Tuesday on behalf of the state's Catholic bishops, saying he supports nine of the 10 points of the bill but is "profoundly distressed" by the inclusion of abortion rights.

"As the pastors of more than 7.2 million Catholic New Yorkers, we fully oppose this measure, and urge all our faithful people to do the same, vigorously and unapologetically. We invite all women and men of good will to join in this effort and defeat this serious attempt to expand abortion availability in our state and to codify the most radical abortion proposals of any state in the nation," he wrote.

The bill cannot pass the state Senate without Republican votes.

"I think there are certain Republicans who are pro-choice Republicans," Cuomo said. "And if you are a pro-choice Republican, you will support this."

Observers said that Republicans are reluctant to support the bill because they have already bucked party orthodoxy on a number of issues, including allowing a vote on a controversial gun control bill earlier this year.

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