ALBANY In a last ditch effort to win legislation combatting human trafficking and discrimination against pregnant women, lawmakers and advocates were in Albany Tuesday calling for action by the Democratic-led Assembly, even if it means breaking up a bill package the chamber wants to keep together.
Dozens of protesters at the Capitol called on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to bring up the measures before the session concludes on Thursday.
The Republican-led Senate has already passed a bill that would strengthen penalties for forcing someone into sexual servitude and help victims defend themselves if they are charged with prostitution. But the measures are part of a larger 10-point women's equality bill that includes a contentious abortion plank.
Last year, the Senate passed nine of the bills, which have bipartisan support, but rejected the abortion measure. The Assembly refused to take up the bill unless the abortion provision was included.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, sponsor of the bill, recounted her own experience of sexual assault and urged the passage of the human trafficking bill.
"I can't remember a moment when I don't relive that experience in some way," the Scarsdale Democrat told protesters. "I can't understand why we don't do everything we can from the moment we know it's possible to help these young girls because they are going to have a lifetime of issues and we need to get them out of that life and help them right now."
So far there's been no indication that Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, will agree to split up the package and allow separate votes.
On Monday, Silver said his chamber would evaluate the women's equality bills the Senate has passed.