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Cuomo loses women’s agenda, abortion — this year

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday his proposal to strengthen the right to abortion after six months of pregnancy appears over this legislative session, but it will likely make for a nasty issue in the 2014 election for some Senate Democrats.

Cuomo made the comments on public radio’s “Capitol Pressroom” after the Independent Democratic Conference ended the chances of getting the abortion proposal to the Senate floor before the session is scheduled to end Thursday.

Cuomo said the four breakaway Democrats who share majority control of the Senate with Republicans had made a political mistake that will cost then during next year’s legislative elections in the state dominated by Democrats and abortion-rights supporters.

“They decided, by their actions, to deal with it in an election contest. I think it is a serious mistake,” said Cuomo, head of the state Democratic party. Cuomo also referred to the IDC members — Sens. Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Valesky and David Carlucci — as “theoretically Democrats.”

The issue would continue to energize Cuomo’s liberal base as well as the more conservative base of Senate Republicans, but could be used against the Independent Democratic Conference’s members.

When asked, Cuomo wouldn’t say if he would oppose the re-election of Klein, Savino, Valesky and Carlucci.

The IDC introduced its own bill Sunday night. It included nine of the 10 women’s equality measures Cuomo had proposed in January — and a few others — but not the abortion provision. Cuomo’s abortion proposal has threatened passage of the other nine major proposals with strong legislative support to assure pay equity for women and strengthen laws against discrimination, domestic violence and prostitution.

Cuomo has refused to break off his abortion proposal even at the cost of the other nine measures. A coalition of women’s rights groups also supports tying all 10 proposals in one bill, so lawmakers would have to pass either all or none of them.

Senate Republicans have refused to allow the abortion proposal to the floor. They consider it an expansion of abortion because it would change state law to allow late-term abortion in the event a woman’s health is danger. State law now allows abortion after six months of pregnancy only if the fetus isn’t “viable” outside the womb or if the woman’s life is danger.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos had promised to block the abortion proposal from a floor vote by using the veto power over bills which he and IDC leader Klein hold under their power-sharing agreement. Women’s rights advocates had pushed Klein to find a way to force the abortion measure to the floor through a parliamentary alternative, but there is doubt even among some advocates whether there would be enough Democratic voters to overrule Skelos’ veto.

Cuomo’s refusal to break his abortion proposal from the other nine put the IDC, which strongly supports abortion rights, into a corner: forcing a vote on the abortion proposal risks its bipartisan power-sharing model.

The Assembly’s Democratic majority immediately rejected IDC’s alternative proposal that didn’t include the abortion provision.

“It’s unacceptable. We agree with the governor,” said Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “We won’t accept anything without the 10 points.”

Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said the governor “is absolutely right.”

She dismissed Senate Republican leader Skelos as an extremist and the IDC’s Sunday night bill as “a middle of the night stunt.”

“They are attempts to create a conflict where there is none with the voters and the public,” she said in an interview.

There was no immediate comment from the IDC.

The IDC broke from the traditional Democratic conference more than two years ago over leadership concerns stemming from gridlock during the Democrats’ brief control of the majority from 2008-10. Since then, the IDC has closely allied with Cuomo helping him achieve some of his toughest wins.

Monday’s Siena College poll found 53 percent of voters support Cuomo’s 10-point bill, with nearly twice as many Democrats and Republicans being supportive. Well over 60 percent of voters, led by Democrats, supported changing state law to comply with current abortion protections under federal law, which abortion rights’ activists fear could be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The poll questioned 804 voters June 9-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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