Senate blocks Women’s Equality Act

Senate blocks Women’s Equality Act
AP Photo/Mike Groll
By Phil Corso

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act failed to pass the state Legislature by session’s end despite widespread support in the state Assembly because of one provision bolstering abortion rights.

The 10-point bill set out to address unequal pay, reproductive rights and discriminatory practices against women while tightening penalties against sexual harassment and sex trafficking and received mostly bipartisan support, with one exception.

After cruising through the Assembly June 20, a provision assuring abortion rights already provided under Roe v. Wade could not get enough support, leading to the entire bill’s failure.

The bill could have possibly made it through the Legislature had its advocates been willing to accept the nine other provisions, but the all-or-nothing strategy had proven critical.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) was one of the several Democrats to vote in favor of the bill and was opposed to dropping any of the 10 provisions. She joined with several other female Assembly members as the bill was heard in Albany vowing to only consider the Women’s Equality Act as one cohesive piece.

“The Women’s Equality Act closes loopholes and legal gray areas within the law to finally establish equal pay, equal rights and self-autonomy,” Rozic said. “It is time to end inequity in the workforce and in housing opportunities, to give women equal pay for equal work and to protect the health of women across New York state.”

Advocacy group Naral Pro-Choice New York came out against the governor dropping any parts of the legislation for the betterment of the bill, which eventually led to its failure to pass by session’s end after state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) joined with Republicans to shoot it down.

“The New York state Senate failed the 10 million women of New York by refusing to pass all 10 widely popular and deeply necessary points that comprise the Women’s Equality Act,” a spokeswoman said. “Because they refused to bring a vote to the floor on critical protections for a woman’s right to choose, they left the whole agenda on the table.”

The key provision that ended up being the deal breaker centered around freedom of choice. Cuomo said the bill would have codified existing law to protect a woman’s right to obtain an abortion and ensure that state laws are consistent with the law of the land. All other nine provisions received support in the Republican-controlled Senate until the abortion provision was introduced, leading to the entire bill’s failure.

“Each and every one of these issues is vitally important to the future of women in our state, and New Yorkers deserve to know where their elected representatives stand on all of them,” Cuomo said. “New York is the last place where women’s rights should be held back. It is the place where they must move forward.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.