New York has a proud legacy as a national leader on sexual and reproductive health. We legalized abortion nearly three years before Roe v. Wade, provide Medicaid coverage for abortion services, and were one of the first states to require health insurance coverage for birth control.
However, despite all this progress made in our state, the majority of current members of New York State’s Senate are actually hostile to reproductive health and rights. And with the upcoming election, even more seats could flip to anti-reproductive health candidates if we don’t take action.
As a result of our current State Senate’s makeup, we’ve seen virtually no advancement of reproductive health and rights in New York. The State Senate has blocked the Women’s Equality Act for three years straight and only passed a package of bills after eliminating all reproductive health protections. The Senate failed to vote on the Boss Bill, which would protect employees from discrimination for their reproductive health decisions. We couldn’t even get progress made when it comes to birth control access–the Senate pushed aside the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act, which simply would have reduced barriers to birth control.
No matter who is in the White House, it matters who is representing us in Albany. We cannot afford to have our State Senate roll back access to reproductive health care. There are two specific races that will be critical in determining the future of reproductive health and rights in our state: State Senate District 16 in Queens and State Senate District 33 in the Bronx.
In District 16, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky faces a primary challenge from Queens businessman S.J. Jung who has publicly stated that he does not support a person’s right to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. He also recently told the Daily News that he opposes marriage equality and would ban same-sex couples from being pictured in textbooks as senator.
Senator Stavisky, on the other hand, has been a long-time champion for reproductive health and has stood up for immigrant rights, fairer elections, and a living wage for families in New York. As Senator, Stavisky advocated for the Boss Bill and also supported expanded access to birth control for New Yorkers through by supporting the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act. This is the kind of person we need to stay in our Senate.
In District 33, Senator Gustavo Rivera, who has been an unwavering champion of women and working families, is in a close race against current City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, who has voted in favor of anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers that mislead women about their reproductive health care options. Cabrera has also praised the government of Uganda for passing a law that makes homosexuality punishable by life in prison.
In the 2016 election, it is imperative that we support leaders like Stavisky and Rivera who will go to Albany and advocate for reproductive health care, not erect road blocks, to improve the health and well-being of all New Yorkers.
New York is a place where everyone is welcome and where we believe that everyone deserves access to the resources to achieve their dreams. We can’t afford to send individuals like Jung or Cabrera to Albany, adding to a State Senate majority that is already hostile to reproductive health. And we don’t need anyone in our local government–or at any level of government–who opposes LGBTQ rights.
It is urgent that individuals come out on September 13 to ensure that we can defend and advance reproductive rights and access to health care for all New Yorkers.
Joan Malin is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood NYC Votes.