ALBANY The Assembly’s decision to break apart Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act was hailed as a victory by conservatives Tuesday at a conference near the state Capitol.

Former Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum delivered the keynote address Tuesday at the conference hosted by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom – a Spencerport, Monroe County-based group — and the New York Association of Christian Schools.

But prior to Santorum’s address, several Republican lawmakers spoke of Assembly Democrats’ decision Monday to allow a vote to toughen human-trafficking penalties and separate it from Cuomo’s bill, which had included a provision to strengthen state abortion rights is opposed by conservatives and the GOP.

“You and I held strong and would not allow the Women’s Equality Agenda to be hijacked by those who would use it as a pretext for expanding abortion,” Funke said to applause. “We won.”

Cuomo’s bill had sparked a two-year battle between Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats, with the former objecting to the abortion provision and the latter refusing to separate it out. The measure would have formally installed federal abortion rights into state law while taking abortion out of the state’s penal code.

That battle came to an end Monday, when the Assembly unanimously passed the human-trafficking provisions separate from the full Women’s Equality Act.

“The governor introduced the Women’s Equality Act as a package and as individual bills and supports its passage either way,” Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said in a statement.

Women’s groups said they will continue to press for stronger abortion rights in New York, which is backed by Democrats in the Legislature.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who is weighing another presidential bid next year, delivered a nearly 45-minute address that was well-received by the conservative crowd. He focused largely on his religious beliefs, his pro-life stance and encouraging like-minded Christians to get more involved in politics and government.

Afterward, Santorum said a decision on whether to jump into the 2016 race would come soon. During his speech, Santorum received applause when he alluded to another possible presidential run.

“I’ve been pretty upfront about it,” Santorum told reporters. “We’re looking at it, and we’ll end up making a decision in the next few months.”

Jamie Romeo, executive director of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, criticized Funke for characterizing the break-up of the Women’s Equality Agenda as a “win” and for appearing with Santorum.

“Funke campaigned as a moderate only to show his true colors as a right-wing zealot after taking office,” Romeo said in a statement.

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, Schenectady County, used his speech to reiterate his pro-life stance, telling conference-goers that he handed out “Vote the Bible” t-shirts to church groups at prayer meetings last year.

“I’m pro-life, and every single person should know and will know that I won’t compromise my stance,” said Amedore, whose district stretches into Ulster County.

JCAMPBELL1@gannett.com

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