Author: catherine

Call to Action-HELP Minors in Post Sexual Assault Circumstances

We need your help.  An important bill that allows minors in post sexual assault circumstances to consent to the full course of HIV preventive medicine is at risk of veto in Albany.

THE ACTION: (by Monday morning)
Please contact the Governor’s office and urge the Governor to sign this bill, A.1204-A (Peoples-Stokes) / S.2279-A (Hoylman).

THE MESSAGE:
Please tell Governor Cuomo:
>We need Governor Cuomo to sign Bill A.1204-A (Peoples-Stokes) / S.2279-A (Hoylman).
>Minors in post sexual assault circumstances need Governor Cuomo’s help.
>These minors need to be able consent to the full course of HIV preventive medicine
>They have already been the victims of sexual assault. Let’s Help Them, not victimize them again!
>Sign Bill A.1204-A (Peoples-Stokes) / S.2279-A (Hoylman).
>The budget should not be balanced on the backs of sexual assault victims!
Remember to tell them your name and if you are with an activist organization, the name of the group. Please add this information to your emails also.
(The greater our number the more powerful we become!)

PLEASE EMAIL the message above to the following people, AND ALSO CALL: (518) 474-8390, and tell them
Chief Counsel Elizabeth Garvey  at Elizabeth.garvey@exec.ny.gov
Executive Counsel Jill Starishevsky directly working on this bill at Jill.Starishevsky@exec.ny.gov.
Director of Women’s Affairs Emily Kadar at Emily.Kadar@exec.ny.gov
Counsel Rebecca Wood at Rebecca.Wood@exec.ny.gov

Click here to read more about the bill.

I believe that you can only veto a bill that allows minors in post sexual assault circumstances lifesaving treatment if you think no one is watching. And while the executive has stated concern about the fiscal impact, they have the ability to keep the status quo on the fiscal cap through chapter amendments.

I urge you to make your voice heard here.
These minors need our help.
Thank you.

Tuesday was a GREAT Day!

You Did It! You came out and voted, bringing your friends and relatives to Early Voting and on General Election Day, November 5th! And on behalf of Choice Matters, WCLA PAC & pro-choice voters everywhere, thank you for that!

November 5th was a good day for Westchester County. After thousands of phone calls, distributing tens of thousands of our bight yellow ProChoice Voting Guide and door-knocking, we have elected 13 pro-choice County legislators. Our endorsed candidates won in all 6 contested County legislative races. We now have a pro-choice super majority on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. We also have a pro-choice majority on the New Castle Town Board!

Also, In The BIG News Column, Virginia elected a government that, with more hard work, should pass a Virginian Reproductive Health Act! And Kentucky elected a pro-choice governor! 

PLEASE enjoy today and our successes because tomorrow we must work! 2020 is finally here. There will be no time to waste.  The election will not only be about defeating Donald Trump. It will be about protecting the gains we made in 2018. 

We must turn our attention to accessibility and reproductive inequities. ALL women must have access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare regardless of their economic abilities and geographic locations, because legal does not mean accessible.

Unite to fight. For our rights.

On My Mind

We know Judges matters. They decide everything – our constitutional rights, malpractice judgements, divorces, white collar settlements, everything! So why aren’t we paying attention and demanding more control?

If Trump has done nothing else, he has made crystal clear how very important judges are! Trump has already appointed 2 Supreme Court Justices and 150+ right-wing, ultra-conservative, anti-choice judges, many of whom have been rated “unqualified”, who will change the face of our legal system for decades to come.

But it’s not just Trump. Here in Westchester, one could argue that judicial ethics rules are not truly ethical or impartial or even constitutional.

 Just this election cycle, the Subcommittee Chair of the Judicial Campaign Ethics Subcommittee, Advisory Committee, told judicial candidates they could not accept WCLA PAC’s endorsement. The reasons provided reference our endorsement policy but do so INCORRECTLY. Judicial candidates do not complete questionnaires nor are they asked to support anything that may require going against any law. The only accurate reference is that a candidate may “neither seek nor accept the Right to Life Party (RTL) nomination” – And that criteria seems justifiable because candidates are permitted to accept the RTL Party line, thereby making their opposition to abortion clear.

One must, therefore, ask, “Was this gross misrepresentation intentional or accidental?” Hmmm. Let’s consider these important facts: the Subcommittee Chair who issued this opinion: 1.) ran for Supreme Court 9th Judicial District in 2011 on the Republican and Conservative lines (the same year the Conservative Party and the Right to Life Party joined forces here in Westchester); 2.) was rated “anti-choice” by us, and 3.) then LOST the election. One can only wonder what this Subcommittee Chair’s motivations may be.

Here in New York State, judicial candidates often fear interviews, claiming that the NYS Ethics rules prohibit them from expressing their views on contentious issues like abortion. The rules they reference are in direct opposition to the 2002 US Supreme Court decision Republican Party of Minnesota vs White. In the 5 – 4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that Minnesota’s clause, which “forbade judicial candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal and political issues”, was unconstitutional. Why are NYS judicial candidates still being held to a pre-2002 standard? In all my years here, I’ve met only one judicial candidate willing to challenge that NYS Ethics position and, perhaps, it’s no surprise that he did not get his Party’s nod to run.

On another judicial note: our NYS Chief Justice is seeking to “streamline” the judicial system. Sounds great and in some ways is much needed, but the devil is in the details. The claim is that we don’t have enough justices where we need them. The proposed solution is to get rid of specific categories of judges including County, Court of Claims, Surrogate’s Court and Family Court. Instead, they will all be “Supreme Court” judges and can be moved around where needed.

Sounds good? Not necessarily. For example, take Family Court. Family Court requires a certain type of personality and commitment. The same person hearing white collar crime cases should not be deciding a custody battle. Who will decide which judge serves where and based upon what criteria? Will the decision be based simply on where a judge is needed? Does this mean that judges elected in northern NYS will be sitting on the bench in Westchester? Will we even still be electing judges or will they all be appointed?

The role personal perspective plays in judicial decisions is seismic, in all courts and at all levels. Personal opinions and biases affect how a judge treats those who come before her/ him/they, the sentence imposed, the bail required, and more.

Yes, the present system is flawed and cumbersome but it’s a lot better than appointments and what we are witnessing in Washington DC. We need a better system for electing judges, not simply replacing it.

Every time you vote for judicial candidates, you are voting for someone with a personal history. That is exactly why WCLA – Choice Matters interviews each judicial nominee and if the nominee refuses to be interviewed, we rate accordingly, as we always have. If someone wants to serve in the courts, we are all entitled to know more, as the US Supreme Court ruled in 2002.

The Story of Pirro & Why Choice Matters’ Questionnaire Matters

Did you know that Jeanine Pirro – presently the Fox News commentator, Trumper & star of Justice with Judge Jeanine – was endorsed by ALL the national and NY statewide pro-choice advocacy groups which helped her win 3 terms as Westchester County District Attorney???

And did you know it was WCLA – Choice Matters’ REQUIREMENT that ALL candidates – incumbents AND challengers – submit completed questionnaires in each election cycle that made it possible for WCLA – Choice Matters  to expose Pirro’s change in position???

In 2001, Pirro’s 3rd race for Westchester DA, we rated her Anti-Choice for the first time as a direct result of the changes in her questionnaire. Unfortunately, other organizations did not reexamine her positions until 2005. The excitement over having the first woman serve as Westchester County DA had created a buzz that basically permitted many to give Pirro a pass as the incumbent, and allowed her to label herself “pro-choice” when, in fact, her position had changed.

2001 ProChoice Voting Guide, Castro article page1 continued on page 6.

2005 New York Time Article.

Since our formation 47 years ago, WCLA – Choice Matters has made our policy perfectly clear to every candidate: submit a questionnaire or you will be rated “Anti-Choice”. No “if’s” “and’s” or “but’s”. The same is true for judicial candidate interviews. NO exceptions. We also go out of our way, often having to reach out numerous times to candidates, to remind them of the due date so that their questionnaires are submitted timely, and stating clearly that if one is not submitted, they will be rated as Anti-Choice. To reiterate, that is not a threat; it has always been our official policy.

Why are we so strict? Because candidates and issues change.

  • It stops anti-choice candidates from avoiding the issue;
  • It educates previously endorsed candidates on the many changes and challenges that have sprung up front-and-center since the last election, like the 20-week abortion ban, the RHA, and the “heartbeat” bills; and
  • It exposes those candidates who have changed their position on Choice but don’t want to tell you.

    Our questionnaires are our contract with the candidate and we treat it exactly that way. It isn’t enough to say “I’m pro-choice”. Incumbents receive the same scrutiny as challengers by WCLA – Choice Matters.

    We hold EVERY SINGLE candidate to the same standard, regardless of gender, party affiliation, or any other way one might identify. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    And we will continue this practice, even when facing threats from candidates and/or elected officials, because it is the only way to protect CHOICE. Just remember Jeanine.

Early Voting – New York State 2019

In January 2019 , New York state lawmakers approved reforms  intended to make it easier to vote, including giving voters 10 days of early access to the ballot box prior to Election Day. The November 2019 elections will be the first to offer early voting in New York State.

Early Voting Begins on Saturday, October 26, 2019, in Westchester County.

Click here to read information provided by the Westchester County Board of Election: Frequently Asked Questions and 2019 Early Voting Polling Locations.

These two links provide a list the 2019 early voting locations in Westchester County as well as responses to frequently asked questions about this new effort. For more information, please call: 914-995-5700.

Join us – Honor Assemblywoman Amy Paulin

On Saturday, June 22nd, we will honor an outstanding Assemblymember, Amy Paulin,
(NYS Assembly District #88.)

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is a champion for women. She has been a prolific legislator, with more than 200 of her own bills being signed into law. Her diverse legislative agenda includes state government reform, children and families, domestic violence, sex trafficking, education, health care, animal welfare, and preventing gun violence.

Amy’s distinguished record of activism in public policy and community issues before being elected to the Assembly has helped make her the outstanding elected official she is today.  Amy has served as Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place, Founder and Chairwoman of Westchester Women’s Agenda, President of Westchester League of Women Voters, Vice President of NY State League of Women Voters, Citizen Member of County Board of Legislators’ Special Committee on Families, and as a Member of the Board of Directors of WCLA – Choice Matters! What a launching pad for women’s issues!

Choice Matters and the community of advocates and activists are particularly excited by Amy’s writing and sponsoring of the bill that eliminated the statute of limitations for rape, and sponsoring the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act to dramatically toughen penalties for traffickers and buyers while providing support to the victims of human trafficking to help rebuild their lives. (Click here to read a partial list of Amy’s Bills.)

The HATE GROUP FOF in Times Square

May 4th, some of us joined forces with NYC for Abortion Rights at Bryant Park and then with a march to Time Square. We stood up and said, “NO” to the homophobic anti-abortion hate group Focus on the Family. They are here to generate extremist reactions to the Reproductive Health Act, and we are here to say, “Not in our city, not in our State – NOT NOW, NOT EVER.”

In Somers!

On May 2nd, the Somers Town Board convened its work session. Some of us were there to  thank the Town Board for refusing to entertain a resolution opposing the Reproductive Health Act that Carmel and the Putnam County Legislature had passed in April.

Thank you to the handmaids who came out, representing the chattel from the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Speak Up – Speak Out! Women’s lives depend on it.

Is IDC behavior back in style?

After the IDC (Independent Democratic Conference) we all swore not to be fooled again. No matter whether there was a “D”,  “R” or “WFP” after the name, we were going to watch the actions, instead of simply listening to the words.

Choice Matters has been doing exactly that – and, unfortunately, our findings are not good.

1. Westchester County Government solicited and accepted a Trump Administration HHS grant for abstinence-only education targeted at the most vulnerable – teens – mostly of color, living below the poverty line & designated as “high risk.”  That’s a huge problem. We are balancing our budget on the backs of the most vulnerable, and we are doing it with lies and half-truths.

Choice Matters successfully got the County to reject the abstinence-only, anti-gay intervention curriculum provider but they are still taking the grant money. Choice Matters will work with the County to find a viable curriculum provider who will provide comprehensive sex education. If we cannot, we must demand that the County return the grant.

3.  Another man – this time a Westchester County Democratic leader – told a room full of Democratic committee chairs to ignore whether Choice Matters rates a candidate as pro-choice or anti-choice. Why? Because he does not want his Democratic candidates who are anti-choice to be adversely impacted. He clearly thinks the “D” is more important than women’s constitutional rights.

4. A male candidate for County Court judge lambasted Choice Matters for rating him anti-choice, after all he said he was “pro-choice.” Then he went on to make our point for us by coming out in total opposition to minors’ rights. This candidate has no place on the Bench.

There is no more important an office than that of judge. Choice Matters is the only organization that interviews and rates judicial candidates.

Choice Matters is your feet on the ground. Please contribute today.

Oh, and fyi – let’s not forget the male presidential contender who entered the Democratic field two weeks ago. He thinks campaigning for anti-choice candidates is fine – even those who have a track record of co-sponsoring bills to restrict abortion rights. According to this presidential candidate, “…you can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”

Really??? Women’s reproductive right is just one issue?? According to the Roe v. Wade decision, that one issue is a woman’s constitutional right. Maybe this candidate is willing to forfeit other constitutional rights, maybe those protecting People of Color or LGBTQ folks. Or is it only women’s rights that are expendable?

When you are playing fast and loose with constitutional rights, you never know what might go next! 

It’s official – the Reproductive Health Act is Law!

Today, Tuesday, January 22, 2019, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,the NYS Assembly and Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act sending it to Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign into law. AND HE DID!

(Please remember that this Trump Administration and Supreme Court are overtly and outspokenly committed to overturning Roe.)

New York – as of today – finally has legislation that takes abortion out of the penal code, that means no longer legislating abortion as homicide, and instead providing women with 21st century medical reproductive health care.

This could not have happened without YOU!

Choice Matters has been working tirelessly to pass this bill since 2006.

However, not until you voted in 2018 to give NYS a pro-choice Senate with a Democratic majority could we make this pro-woman healthcare, pro-woman’s civil rights law a reality.

We thank you for your support and ask you to recognize that we work day in and day out to pass pro-choice legislation to protect your right to Choose. Now we will focus our attention on making sure that NYS has a budget that enables women who live on the financial borderline to actually be able to use this law!

Sincerely,
Choice Matters Staff