Family Planning Advocates (FPA) Day of Action
Report by Kathy Tew Rickey to the GUSTO Clergy Group (reprinted with her permission)
Monday, January 26, 2015
Hello all – as I said it was a great day despite the weather threats. The events started out being well organized with a rally in The Well of the Legislative Office Building. There were hot pink pashmina scarves and hot pink neck ties given out at registration. Placards were also distributed with FPA messages for rallying. The speakers included several senators, assemblypersons, and the leaders of the Bi-Partisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus (90 members). We are not alone in family planning support!
After the rally, we gathered in the stairwell for a picture which I am yet to find online but there were surely a few hundred of us all in all. After the pic, we were served boxed lunches from Au Bon Pain – yum!
As you know from the schedule for the day’s events there were supposed to be two workshop sessions in the afternoon followed by meetings with legislators. Two things disrupted the afternoon schedule – the Weather and the Scandal. If you haven’t heard, Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York Assembly, was arrested on corruption charges January 22. Apparently, his corrupt activities have far-reaching implications, including the question of whether Governor Cuomo turned a blind eye on Silver’s wrongdoings. This is heartbreaking if for no other reason than Silver is a champion of the “10-Point” WEA [note: nine points now because one on orders of protection was signed into law last year.].
Thus, the workshops were cut down to only one short session. I attended the workshop on challenges to lobbying for the reproductive rights plank of the Women’s Equality Act (WEA). You all may have known this but I did not: The WEA actually started out as 10 different bills all of which protect and enhance women’s rights including the protection of Roe v Wade and other reproductive rights (such as the morning-after pill and IUD contraception which are being labeled by conservatives as “abortifacients.”) The slate of bills was passed by the Assembly as a package or omnibus bill. BUT when it got to the Senate, they unpackaged them and voted on them one-by-one so that most but not all were passed. Guess which one did not even make it to the Senate floor? Right – the Roe v Wade/RR bill.
SO if you have a senator who says he/she passed the Women’s Equality Act, please remind them that the more comprehensive Omnibus Bill passed by the Assembly was indeed NOT what the Senate passed and that a key piece of the legislation vitally important for women in making their own decisions and being their own agents in their reproductive healthcare has been omitted. IMHO, it’s an important point to make in any correspondence with legislators on this subject.
Another challenge of this legislation is that it tends to silo women’s issues when really all ten of the protections provided for in WEA are quite interdependent; at a minimum they can overlap in many women’s lives, especially those economically marginalized, so that one law without the other doesn’t make sense (see the PDF).
After the workshop the meetings with legislators were to take place outside the third-floor Assembly and Senate Chambers where legislators of our choice could be called off the floor by a page for a brief conversation. However, when we (the contingent from Central and Western NY – about 30 of us) got to the lobby of the legislative floor, the session had been “gaveled out” due to the threatening weather; most senators were gone already. But as I said in my email, we were able to talk to one senator. Betty DeFazio, FPA Public Policy Director, recognized Senator John DeFrancisco, District 50, as not friendly to our cause. When Betty approached and brought up the WEA, the Senator said – “What about it, it passed.” Then someone mentioned the Tenth Bill (codifies Roe v Wade into NY State Law) and the senator replied, “Look, would you rather a bill that prevents sex-trafficking not come before the Senate?” (Suggesting that the Senate did the right thing by considering each bill separately.) I couldn’t hold my tongue. I said, “Senator, the Women’s Equality Act legislation came to you as an Omnibus bill from the Assembly because in many ways these bills are interrelated – they are all important to a woman’s well-being.” But the senator strenuously objected to my notion. The dialogue continued between the senator, Betty, and a few others but I had a hard time seeing and hearing what was going on as he had stepped away from where I was standing.
By this time, it was after 2pm and the bus back to Rochester was leaving so our group quickly made their way out of the capitol building. I returned to the parking garage and my car and made my way home. Parking was super easy and convenient, costing $10.
This was my first “lobbying” experience and my first time to the NY capitol. My learning and my experiences were great and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Kudos to FPA for a well-organized event.
2015 Focus Issues:
Fund the Family Planning Grant – Services provided by family planning providers are vital to New York families and an investment that pays off for the state (For every $1 invested in family planning, $5.68 in Medicaid costs is saved).
Pass the Boss Bill – New York State workers must be able to make the personal reproductive health care decisions that are right for them, without the fear of employer discrimination based on the employer’s personal beliefs.
Women’s Equality Agenda – WEA addresses important issues affecting women’s lives and well-being. The reproductive health plank aligns New York law with Roe v. Wade, making it clear that New York law protects the core right established by the Supreme Court.
Paid Family Leave – workers in our state currently have no legal right to paid leave if they need to provide for a new, or newly adopted child, or ill family member.