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The head of the state's Conservative Party split Monday with one of his staunchest political allies, Gov. Pataki, over legislation to assure access to abortion clinics.

"Politicians who pander to extremists lack moral courage," said a Conservative memo to state lawmakers opposing clinic access legislation. "This proposed bill is pandering to the worst abortion extremists."

The Republican governor, in the wake of the fatal sniper attack against Dr. Barnett Slepian in Amherst, said he would propose legislation making it a state crime to block health clinic access.

Pataki, who had previously said he would sign such legislation if it reached his desk, had come under fire from abortion rights supporters after Slepian's death for not doing more to get such a bill approved by state lawmakers.

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