June 12, 2014 — With their legislative session ending next week, New York lawmakers are weighing their options for considering a package of 10 bills, together called the Women's Equality Act, the Wall Street Journal reports (Gay, Wall Street Journal, 6/11).
Last year, the state Senate passed every bill in the package except an abortion-rights measure. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) refused to consider the package without the abortion measure.
Democrats reintroduced the measure in May, with Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins saying that the group is committed to passing the package in its entirety.
The bills cover issues such as human trafficking, reproductive rights, sexual harassment, pay equity and protective orders for women. Supporters have said the abortion-rights measure in the package would bring state law in line with the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29).
Debate Over Separating Bills
The legislative session ends on June 20 (Dewitt, WBFO, 6/10). In the Republican-controlled state Senate, there is support for approving nine of the bills "without addressing abortion," the Journal reports. However, lawmakers in the more liberal state Assembly are still debating their next steps.
State Assembly member Amy Paulin (D) leads one group of lawmakers that wishes to break up the package and vote on the bills separately. They argue that including the abortion-rights measure will prevent the other bills from passing in the state Senate. Paulin, who supports abortion rights, is trying to secure votes to pass three of the bills before the end of the session.
Assembly member Deborah Glick (D) leads a second group of lawmakers that supports voting on the bills as a single package. She said that with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his running mate, "we have a real opportunity" to pass the package (Wall Street Journal, 6/11).
However, Cuomo downplayed the chance of action this session, saying, "I don't expect us to do any major initiatives."
Meanwhile, the state association of Planned Parenthoods announced a new political action committee that will aim to elect more candidates who support abortion rights to the state Senate. Tracey Brooks of Family Planning Advocates said that there is public support for the abortion-rights measure but that it will not reach the floor without a change in Senate leadership (WBFO, 6/10).