ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A new coalition lobbying for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's women's rights agenda said it supports his decision to link popular measures against workplace discrimination and human trafficking with a hotly debated abortion measure.
It's a political gamble that faces strong opposition among Senate Republicans.
The Senate GOP supports workplace protections and tougher prostitution laws, which would help them with the important women's vote. But the Republican conference doesn't want to expand abortion rights, which is opposed by the influential state Conservative Party and the Catholic bishops.
"This is a 10-point package ... it's a whole package," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, part of the New York Womens' Equality Coalition.
"All 10 are equally important," said Christine Sadowski, executive director of the YWCA of Orange County and representing YWCAs statewide.
The exact content of Cuomo's abortion measure is unclear. He hasn't released the text of the bill and appears to be recasting it in public comments.
Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said on Monday that he believes Cuomo's measure would expand the law to allow abortions up to the last day of pregnancy, a view Cuomo says isn't true.
In a fiery State of the State passage in January, Cuomo called for passage of the Women's Reproductive Health Act which is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the minority leader.
Cuomo reached a crescendo in that speech when he promised to "Enact a Reproductive Health Act because it is her body, it is her choice. Because it's her body, it's her choice. Because it's her body, it's her choice."
Last week, however, Cuomo said he didn't support and wasn't calling for passage of the Reproductive Health Act or any expansion of abortion rights. Instead, he said he simply wants to codify current abortion protections should the U.S. Supreme Court strike down the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in 1973.
Cuomo had no immediate comment Monday.
The coalition of more than 500 groups and businesses said Monday it is working closely with Cuomo to lobby lawmakers and their constituents. Other measures would strengthen laws requiring equal pay for equal work and outlaw discrimination for jobs and housing against mothers and pregnant women. They said women still make thousands of dollars a year less than men for some of the same jobs and women are more likely to live in poverty, often with their children.
The women's vote is a key in New York politics and is a strong constituency for Cuomo, a Democrat.
"Women account for roughly 55 percent of the votes in virtually every election in New York state," said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College poll. "Women tend to be a little more Democratic, but there's no hard-and-fast rule ... as a group women, tend to be a little more left of center."
The support is important for Cuomo. He has lost a bit of his strong public support among Republicans and men with his recent gun control law and women will be increasingly important should he run for president in 2016, as some supporters hope.