Category: Uncategorized

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 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.

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

As We Move Forward, DEMAND Change!

by Catherine Lederer-Plaskett
President/Chair of the Board

The successful appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is more than disturbing.  Survivors from all over the country spoke out and millions called, protested, and marched. Chief Justice Roberts received numerous misconduct complaints against Kavanaugh from the DC Court of Appeals, which Roberts has refused to investigate. Kavanaugh lied under oath to the US Senate. The so-called FBI investigation refused to interview the many who offered credible information. And during his own testimony, Kavanaugh showed that he does not have the temperament for the job. But still, the Senate voted to confirm him.

This is not the first time this group of white old men rammed a candidate onto the Supreme Court, and unless we work smart it will not be the last.

  1. Susan Collins is proof of a Choice Matters’ mantra: If being pro-choice is not at the top of a candidate’s agenda, not one of the top five issues, that person is of NO USE TO WOMEN. We will not support you. We will not tolerate lip service. Collins’ false narrative that she’s pro-choice and pro-woman has been exposed. The IDC members made the same false claims and we ousted 6 of them in the September Primary. Now it’s time to take Collins out. She’s up for re-election in 2020. We must be ready to work starting November 7th.
  2. Unbelievable as it may seem, many women took this personally – not as surviviors but as the mothers of sons. They bought Trump’s narative that it is a horrible time for men. Some of these very women identify as “progressives” but still they blame the “girls”. As a sexual assault victim and the mother of 2 sons – 2 black sons – the population most likely to be falsely accused of any crime, I trust my sons AND  I believe women.  People need to take responsibility for their actions, and that includes how we raise our children. And,
  3. Holding up a mirror. Democrats are guilty of some of the same behavior for which they attack Republicans. In Westchester, the top elected offices are all held by men, and both political parties are lead by men. It is time for this to change, and women must demand it!

20-Week Abortion Bans

By Estella Johnson

The 20-week abortion ban is targeted at older women who are more likely to have pregnancies complicated by fetal anomalies. Women who have an amniocentesis to determine the health of the fetus would no longer be able to use the results as the tests can first be done at 17-18 weeks and take two weeks to complete, placing a woman beyond the 20 week deadline. https://choicematters.org/2017/10/06/20-week-abortion…o-big-deal-think/

This article gives a little background on 20-week bans and lists examples of those bans in the country as of September 12th, 2018. https://rewire.news/legislative-tracker/law-topic/20-week-bans/

This article by The Guttmacher Institute talks a bit about the background of abortion rights in this country, highlights current law around the issue.  https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/state-policies-later-abortions

This article by the NYT talks about the proposed bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks that recently failed in the US Senate.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/29/us/politics/senate-abortion-ban-20-weeks.html

6-Week Abortion Bans

By Estella Johnson

In 2013, the North Dakota State Senate approved a bill that would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected- something that usually occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy.  This law in theory would ban almost all abortions. Many women do not know until much later in a pregnancy that they are pregnant at all. Under this bill, women seeking abortions would not face criminal charges; however, doctor’s caught performing abortions after a heartbeat is detected could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Pro-choice advocates in North Dakota suspect this bill is an attempt to close the only remaining abortion clinic in the state, which is located in Fargo. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/north-dakota-senate-approves-6-week-abortion-ban/

In 2015 the 8th circuit court of appeals struck down the North Dakota 6-week abortion ban. According to the court, the ban violated the Supreme Court precedent that makes abortion legal until the fetus is viable outside the womb (usually around 24 weeks).https://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/north-dakota-abortion-ban-120467

In 2016, the Supreme Court decided to not review the case, permanently blocking North Dakota’s fetal heartbeat law.  https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/25/464311731/supreme-court-rejects-north-dakota-s-bid-to-save-strict-abortion-law

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds plans to sign a bill to ban abortion after 6 weeks. The ACLU has already stated that it plans to sue if the law gets signed.  https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/iowa-governor-says-shell-sign-6-week-abortion-ban-into-law

An Iowa judge temporarily blocked the 6-week ban from going into effect until a lawsuit brought forth by Planned Parenthood and the Iowa branch of the ACLU is resolved.  https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/390241-judge-temporarily-blocks-iowas-six-week-abortion-ban

Intent of 6-Week Abortion Bans

By Estella Johnson

This group of articles, in the bulleted posts below, discusses one of the most blatant attacks on a woman’s right to choose: the six-week ban, also known as the heartbeat bill. These bills—which several states have tried to establish as law in the past decade— would make abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected illegal. Detection of a heartbeat can typically occur as early as six weeks. This is so early in a pregnancy that many women do not even realize that they are pregnant. For this reason, these six weeks bans are effectively a ban on all abortions. The articles in this section focus specifically on attempts to implement six week bans in the states of Iowa and North Dakota. Although the North Dakota ban has now been permanently blocked by the courts, the fight to keep abortion legal in Iowa continues.