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