Little, Stec: Don’t tie abortion to Women’s Equality Act

Some lawmakers from the North Country want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep an abortion bill separate from a larger plan to bolster women’s rights.

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, told the Enterprise this week that she supports most of the measures contained within Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, a 10-point plan that aims to achieve equal pay for women, stop sexual harassment in the workplace and stop housing discrimination for victims of domestic violence, among other things.

The big focus so far, though, has been Cuomo’s call for enactment of the controversial Reproductive Health Act. The governor has yet to put forth specifics about his own bill. The Enterprise couldn’t determine when Cuomo will release his version of the legislation, how closely it will mirror the Senate’s bill or whether it will be attached to a larger women’s equality bill. Two phone messages and an email to the governor’s press office hadn’t been returned as of Thursday night.

The Senate bill, which has been around since 2008, was referred to the Health Committee in early January.

“There are a number of women-related issues that the governor spoke about in his State of the State and would like to address this year, and I would hope it would come in separate pieces of legislation so that it would not be an all-encompassing bill that would include the women’s reproductive act,” Little said. “That legislation is quite controversial, and certainly I am pro-life, and I would not be voting for that. I have several concerns with it.”

The Senate bill would codify federal abortion law under state Public Health Law and create an exemption for late-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk. The legislation would also let qualified medical providers perform abortions in the early stages of pregnancy. In the future, these providers could include more than just doctors, who would have to be licensed by state panels.

Little said she supports better access to contraception and more education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but remains steadfast in her opposition to abortion.

“I would not want to see it expanded any more than what we have in this state,” she said.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said he’s not sure when Cuomo plans to introduce his legislation, and he doesn’t want to guess how the governor will package it. Like Little, Stec said he’d prefer to see abortion legislation be put forth separately.

“There hasn’t been an Assembly bill that I’m aware of yet that’s been submitted on the subject, so I really don’t have any piece of legislation to go off of specifically in our house,” he said.

Stec said he will vote against any effort to expand access to abortion.