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After a pro-life group last week sponsored radio ads slamming State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy’s new support for abortion rights, one of the state’s leading pro-choice organizations responds on local television today by lauding his backing for a woman’s right “to make her own private health care decisions with dignity.”

NARAL Pro-Choice New York launches the ads today to “clarify” the Women’s Equality Act proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and expected to be considered by the Legislature this spring.

“New Yorkers don’t appreciate being manipulated and lied to by opponents of the Women’s Equality Act,” said Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York. “Anti-choice extremists and their allies in the State Legislature spent a year spreading blatant mistruths about this landmark legislation. But New Yorkers didn’t bite — they have made clear, time and again, that they believe in protecting women’s health and enshrining the right to choose in our state law.”

The pro-choice group also features Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, on its web site this week as one of its “awesome” legislators as it tracks lawmakers’ positions on the “10th point” of the proposed legislation. Its new ad also singles out Kennedy as an abortion rights champion.

Pro-life groups have criticized the measure as an expansion of abortion rights in New York that could – under certain circumstances – involve late-term procedures not allowed under current law.

NARAL, however, now uses the ads to underscore its contention that the Cuomo bill simply “codifies” New York law to be consistent with federal law as outlined in Roe vs. Wade.

“The majority of New Yorkers support this common sense bill because they understand the need to update New York law to bring it into compliance with the federal protections in Roe, particularly with so many attacks on women’s health and reproductive rights happening across the country,” Miller said. “We believe that Buffalo residents deserve and will welcome an honest conversation about the Women’s Equality Act and that’s precisely the point of our ad.”

Kennedy, previously considered a pro-life vote on abortion, explained recently that he has “evolved” on the issue. He said he maintains his own private views on abortion, but now supports the 10th point that expands abortion rights in New York.

His stand was suddenly thrust into the political spotlight in January when Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus that shares majority power in the Senate with Republicans, said he would back Kennedy’s Democratic primary opponent Betty Jean Grant this year because of her solid support for abortion rights. He labeled Kennedy a “pro-life Democrat.”

But Senate Democrats shot back by noting NARAL was already listing Kennedy as supportive of its agenda, while the senator also detailed his change of position in a February story in The Buffalo News.

Since then, Bishop Richard J. Malone publicly chastised Kennedy for claiming to be “nurturing” his children as Catholics.

“Practicing Catholics who claim they are nurturing their children in the faith must teach their children that abortion is intrinsically evil, that human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” the bishop said.

Then the Chiarascuro Group, a Manhattan-based organization seeking to reduce the number of abortions, sponsored emotional radio ads last week featuring the voice of a baby, supposedly near birth, the group claims could be aborted under the new bill.

Kennedy declined comment on the newest round of ads, except to point to his earlier contention that “a woman has to be able to make a decision upon her health, her life and her family that is in her best interests and their best interests.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com