As New York hunkers down for Hurricane Sandy, I want to let her know how we treat women up here–even powerful, independent women who don’t cross their legs, redirect their gale force winds off-shore, or otherwise behave like the little ladies so popular with our male Republican candidates these days.
1) We respect a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny: New York legalized abortion before Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land.
2) While many of the country’s legislators are dreaming up new ways to demean women, we have New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins introducing the Reproductive Health Act, with eighteen co-sponsors. Its purpose: to provide a fundamental right to choose contraception and the right of a female to determine the course of a pregnancy; to authorize abortion prior to viability; and to decriminalize abortion.
3) While other states have gridlock, gridlock, and oh yeah, gridlock, we have State Senator Liz Krueger co-founding the New York State Bipartisan Legislative Pro-Choice Caucus, which currently has more than 70 members. (The senator is also one of the co-sponsors of the aforementioned Reproductive Health Act. Did I mention that she rocks?)
4) In her first term, Senator Krueger led the fight to pass New York’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act, which requires employers who choose to cover prescription drugs, to include prescription contraceptives for women. (A Republican governor signed the bill in 2002. And the Supreme Court refused to hear the Catholic Charities appeal in 2007. Ah, to think those were the good old days …)
5) One more (rain) hat tip to Senator Krueger: She and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democrat from Sullivan County, have introduced legislation — S. 6273 and A. 9114 — that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women whose health care providers say they need them, unless doing so would be an undue hardship for the employer.
7) Speaker Quinn led the City Council’s efforts to pass legislation requiring “clinics” run by anti-abortion groups to be more transparent about the services they do and not offer. Said Quinn: “The goal of this bill is to ensure that women are fully informed and not deceived. Women need to know, they have a right to know, whether they are consulting with a licensed medical provider.” (The legislation was blocked by a federal judge and is currently under appeal. But that hasn’t stopped Quinn. See #8)
8) Speaker Quinn has formed a City Council Clinic Protection Project to support women who face anti-abortion demonstrations as they seek health services. (The silver lining in the protest that followed: an admission from the male director of a fake women’s clinic upset by the prospect of having his four-times-a-week protests impinged upon: “We currently have the fewest number of [protesters] we’ve ever had.”) We can only hope.
9) At a recent reproductive health event, City Council nominee Helen Rosenthal wondered why New York politicians were required to stay 100 feet away from polling areas on Election Day while anti-abortion protesters were not legally required to maintain the same distance between themselves and the clinic visitors they intimidate. Both politicians and protesters are exercising their right to free speech in an effort to influence individual choice and behavior. But in the absence of a specific legal mandate, protesters are often allowed within 15 feet of women entering a health clinic. Do I see some new legislation lurking on yonder horizon?
10) New York is home to Seneca Falls, site of the first Convention on Women’s Rights in 1848, the Statue of Liberty, Gloria Steinem, Shelby Knox, Sesame Street, Secretary of State Hilllary Clinton, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. So come on over, Sandy. Try not to rearrange too much of the furniture. But even if you do, you’re in could have better company.
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.