State (Current Legislation)
Open Letter to Supporters of the Women’s Equality Act
May 1, 2013
We are writing to groups and individuals who signed on as supporters of the Women’s Equality Act that Governor Cuomo announced in his State of the State address in January.
While nine of the Act’s ten points are widely embraced in feminist and progressive circles, the tenth point, which the Governor calls the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), should give pause to many supporters of the broader legislative effort. The blanket support of the Women’s Equality Act has given the Governor an opening to promote abortion, even though it could scuttle passage of the entire package.
The RHA will not address New York’s abortion rate, which is almost double the national average, nor address access to abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, thirty-three percent of pregnancies in New York end in abortion. Nationally, one of out of every ten abortions are performed in New York. Further, 93 percent of New York women already have an abortion facility in their county.
The current abortion proposal drafted by the Senate contains measures that are directly antithetical to the goals and values of many of the groups who have announced their support for the Women’s Equality Act.
Supporters and clients of battered women’s shelters and other anti-violence groups may be surprised or even shocked to know that the current draft of the RHA would eliminate heightened penalties for an assault against a pregnant woman that results in the death of her unborn child. Advocates against human trafficking may not be aware that the current version of the RHA virtually eliminates the possibility of requiring parental notification and regulating the transport of minors across state lines to obtain an abortion, which makes it more difficult to identify and prosecute pimps and other sex traffickers.
Forty years ago, the Equal Rights Amendment was on the verge of passing, with 35 states agreeing to ratify the Amendment. It was the refusal to free the Equal Rights Amendment from abortion baggage that stopped the ERA’s momentum, causing five states to repeal their approval of that federal constitutional amendment because they opposed abortion funding. The refusal to add abortion-neutral language resulted in the ERA's eventual defeat. New York should not make that same mistake with the Women’s Equality Act .
Many of the organizations that have signed up to support the Women’s Equality Act take no position on abortion and have membership and client bases that no doubt contain significant numbers who oppose abortion. A recent Gallup poll found that 50% of people describe themselves as “pro-life,” and even 60% of Democrats support common sense regulations of abortion.
We urge all of the groups who have announced their support for the Women’s Equality Act to make it clear that their priority is passage of the nine points on which a broad consensus has naturally coalesced. The tenth point divides conscientious women and men across the political landscape. The Women’s Equality Act should not be used as a Trojan horse for abortion expansion, and the Reproductive Health Act must not be allowed to jeopardize this historic opportunity to achieve real progress for the women of New York.
We urge you to join us in calling on Governor Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly to eliminate the bill-killing abortion language from the Women’s Equality Act and to bring it immediately to the Senate and Assembly for consideration.
Democrats For Life of America Feminists Choosing Life of New York
January 31, 2013
Senator Jeff Klein
Legislative Office Building, Room 913
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Senator Klein:
I am writing to respond to your comments that
Democrats in New York are championing the most sweeping abortion legislation in the nation. Governor Andrew Cuomo added the strong abortion language to a Women's Equity bill aimed at addressing human trafficking, pay equity for women, and domestic violence.
The abortion language would allow late-term abortions, allow non-doctors to perform abortions, and supersede any reasonable restrictions such as parental notification, in a state that already has one of the highest abortion rates. It is out of touch with the views of most Americans, out of touch with the views of most Democrats, and could hamper real reform for women's rights.
Democratic Senator Jeff Klein, who supports the abortion expansion, is also leading a charge beyond the legislation. However, he also has taken a stance against pro-life Democrats arguing that any Democratic who does not support the bill is not a Democrat. It is clear that Senator Klein does not fully understand the importance of diversity within our party, the strength of a big tent policy, or the real needs of women. It is up to us to educate the Senator.
Late last night, Virginia joined a number of states who have adopted legislation to prohibit abortion coverage in state-based exchanges. Democratic Senator Phil Puckett provided the critical 20th vote which allowed the Lieutenant Governor to vote and break the 20-20 tie. Democratic Senator Chuck Colgan also supported the pro-life legislation.
Senator Puckett has a long and strong pro-life record. In addition to his crucial vote banning abortion in the state-based health exchanges, this legislative session Senator Puckett also provided a key vote to mandate that abortion clinics meet basic health and safety standards in Virginia. Pro-life advocates have pushed the Abortion Clinic Regulation bill for several legislative sessions. Senator Puckett's support for the legislation and against his Party leadership is a testament to his unwaivering support for life.
Senator Puckett supports the "Whole Life" principle that embraces life in the womb and beyond. He was the author and Patron of the Virginia Pregnant Women Support Act which paved the way for Virginia to receive a $1.7 million grant from the Federal Pregnancy Assistance Fund. Because of Senator Puckett's leadership, starting this fall, colleges and universities around Virginia will start programs to support pregnant students so they can stay in school and provide for their families rather than dropping out.