Women's Equality Act decried - Catholic Courier

Women’s Equality Act decried

PENFIELD — As the clock counts down to the June 20 end of the state legislative session, activists say they still have not seen the Women’s Equality Act legislation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed during his 2013 State of the State address Jan. 9.

During the address, Cuomo called for a 10-point proposal to "protect a woman’s freedom of choice" to have an abortion.

Despite the lack of legislation, activists rallied May 22 outside the office of state Sen. Ted O’Brien to oppose expansions to abortion laws in the state. Participants at the rally included Democrats for Life NY and Feminists Choosing Life of NY Action and students from McQuaid Jesuit.

Although the governor has characterized his proposal as an effort merely to codify federal judicial rulings, pro-life activists say they suspect Cuomo’s legislation actually would expand abortion in the state by making it a fundamental right. Doing so could bar such restrictions on the procedure as a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification laws, activists say.

Though the absence of legislation means the precise wording is not yet available for the Women’s Equality Act, Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference and director of the conference’s Catholic Action Network, said it’s likely the bill will serve to expand abortion in the state. (Click here for a link to the Catholic conference’s action alert on this issue.)

"It’s going to increase the circumstances under which late-term abortion would be legal and available in New York state, so therefore it’s going to expand abortion," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said bills typically have to age three days before the state Senate and Assembly can consider them, but she noted that Gov. Cuomo recently used a "message of necessity" to move gun-control legislation through the Legislature without the benefit of the three-day wait. Thus, she said, it’s possible that the legislation could be acted on at the last minute.

While the senator respects the right of citizens to speak out about issues, O’Brien spokesman Tom Morrisey said O’Brien supports all of the parts of the Women’s Equality Act.

O’Brien, a Democrat who serves the 55th District, including the eastern half of Monroe County and the western half of Ontario County, also is a cosponsor of the 2013 version of the Reproductive Health Act (S438-2013), which in January was introduced in the state Senate. That measure would bar restrictions to abortion.

"(O’Brien) remains committed to protecting a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions consistent with the current law, and supports the governor’s proposals to strengthen protections for domestic violence victims, ensure pay equity and end discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace," said Morrisey, referring other proposed aspects of the Women’s Equality Act. "Sen. O’Brien is happy to support policies that will help to end the remaining inequalities between men and women in our state."

Jessica Shanahan, coordinator of the May 22 rally and a volunteer with Feminists Choosing Life of NY Action, said that instead of new abortion legislation, Cuomo should provide resources to help women with unplanned pregnancies.

"Women are being harmed by abortion," agreed Feminists Choosing Life of NY Action volunteer Jean Baric. "They bear the scars. They bear physical scars and oftentimes emotional scars."

Chris Hood, director of Christian Service at McQuaid Jesuit, said 25 boys from the middle and high school attended the rally. Many had been involved in the annual Break for Life, a student-led pro-life conference.

"Even though this is a very busy time of year before finals, we felt that this was important to be here to put what we learned from the Break for Life conference into action," Hood said.

Liz Gilges of Canandaigua, a parishioner of St. Benedict Parish, said she is concerned that under Cuomo’s proposal nondoctors might be allowed to perform abortions and that parental notifications could be barred.

"I think every mother should be outraged at that," she remarked.


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