(Photo: Reuters/Hans Pennink)
Pro-life advocates in New York who support nine of the 10 proposals in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Women's Equality Act" are alarmed by the Democrat-led Assembly's decision to not vote on the nine bills that passed in the Senate late Friday that would have required equal pay for women, strengthened human trafficking laws, ended pregnancy discrimination and strengthened protections for domestic violence victims, simply because they disagree with the Senate's decision to not vote on the abortion expansion measure.
Mike Whyland, press secretary for New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, told The Christian Post late Monday that the Assembly's goal is to pass all 10 points of the governor's WEA, which they passed on Thursday, but was subsequently divided into 10 separate bills so that Senate members could vote on the proposals individually. The Senate passed nine of the proposals, but didn't bring the abortion measure up for a vote due to lack of support.
Although the speaker can call a special session at any time for the Assembly to vote on the nine bills that were passed by the Senate, Whyland said that as long as "women's reproductive health is under attack," the speaker's plan is to "negotiate the bill on its own merit," which includes all 10 proposals, not just the nine that passed in the Senate.
Kelly Vincent-Brunacini, the executive director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, told CP on Monday that the Assembly's actions are a tragic judgment call.
"The Assembly and pro-choice women's organizations have opted to put their 'anytime, anywhere' abortion ideology ahead of what's best for women's health and safety, and ahead of what will advance women's overall social equality," Brunacini said. "It's clear what their true motivations were and it's not better lives for women."
She continued, "By failing to deliver nine of the 10 points of the WEA, the governor, Assembly and pro-choice lawmakers have made it clear they're willing to disenfranchise New York women and deny them a myriad of long overdue rights and protections to appease their own special interests. The WEA was saddled with a self-destructive component expanding abortion access well beyond what voters can accept."
Sen. Skelos (R-Nassau County), who co-leads the Senate with Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), of the Independent Democrat Coalition, praised lawmakers for passing the nine measures, but condemned his colleagues in the Assembly who chose to end the session without taking a vote on the nine bills that passed in the Senate.
"After a week's worth of rhetoric, the speaker has closed the Assembly's session and sent his members home without acting on these important bills," wrote Skelos in a statement released Monday. "It's unconscionable that the speaker would jeopardize the tremendous progress we have made on behalf of New York's women by refusing to vote on the nine bills that make up our historic women's equality agenda."
New York Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), however, issued a message of support for the Assembly and scolded members of the Senate for not standing up for what she calls women's reproductive rights.
"No one would believe that in 2013 there were not enough senators willing to vote to protect the health and equality of women," wrote Cousins in a statement released Friday. "In 1970, when choice was first passed in New York, 12 Republican senators joined a majority of their Democratic colleagues to support this landmark legislation. In our state, women's health has never been a Republican or Democratic issue. I find it shocking that 43 years later not one Senate Republican stood up for women's equality."
According to Brunacini, the abortion proposal in the WEA was an effort aimed at expanding late-term abortion past 24 weeks. And since it would have allowed any non-physician to perform abortions, she said, "it would have made abortion a fundamental right in New York and radically changed abortion laws."
Brunacini added that, "if non-doctors were to be allowed to perform abortions, the gestational limits were removed and the health exception left undefined, then an anytime, anywhere mentality for killing up-to the time of birth would prevail in New York. So rather than address our already high rate of abortion, it would have unleashed the possibility for even higher rates of abortion."
She continued, "The bill would have codified 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion law, which is not current federal law. Current federal abortion law takes into consideration several lawsuits over the past decades that refined Roe and allowed common sense safeties and restrictions, such as limits on Medicaid-funded abortions, gestational limits, allowing states to enforce physician mandates and to enact fetal homicide bills. Codification of the 1973 abortion law would not allow any of those things."
The WEA is expected to be re-introduced and voted on again next session, if Speaker Silver doesn't call a special session for the Assembly during the interim to vote on the nine bills that passed in the Senate.