The Republicans’ top two candidates, for governor and attorney general, are anti-choice candidates who have shown true disdain for the well-being of New York women. No longer is the standard bearer for the Republican Party pro-choice governor Nelson Rockefeller, who signed New York’s abortion-rights bill into law. Instead, today’s New York Republican Party has sought out extreme anti-choice politicians to run.
Their gubernatorial candidate, Rob Astorino, has made his anti-choice position a cornerstone of his campaign. He promises to do to the state what he has done to Westchester County. That means vetoing legislation guaranteeing women safe access to reproductive health care, eliminating funding for health centers, gutting funding for sex education and more. If elected governor, he would be able to do unimaginable budgetary and legal damage to women.
Astorino and John Cahill, the Republican candidate for New York attorney general, have taken aim at theÂ Women’s Equality Act. This act is a 10-point plan that ensures women are treated fairly in the workplace, helps protect survivors of domestic violence and preserves access to reproductive health care. Calling the reproductive health component of the act “ghastly” and “hideous,” Astorino has declared he will “guarantee” never to sign it into law. Cahill, the candidate whose legal mind the public is supposed to trust, dismisses it as unnecessary.
The truth is that New York’s current laws do not give women the full constitutionally recognized protection of Roe v. Wade and do not incorporate the medical advances that have been made in reproductive health over the past 44 years. New York women deserve reproductive legislation that does both, and the vast majority of New Yorkers want the reproductive component of the Women’s Equality Act enacted into law. But Astorino and Cahill don’t, and so they work to mislead the public about the Women’s Equality Act and the status of New York’s abortion rights.
In recent years, anti-abortion forces have chipped away at that constitutionally protected right state by state, driving women’s clinics out of operation and making it impossible for many women to obtain reproductive health services of all types â€“ including contraception and abortion. In New York, 53 percent of our counties have no abortion clinics, and every year anti-choice bills, like the defunding of Planned Parenthood, must be beaten back in Albany.
It’s easy to say the denial of women’s health services couldn’t happen in New York. But unless the rights guaranteed by Roe are codified in state law, New York women will remain vulnerable to attacks from anti-abortion extremists â€“ and Cahill has a history of undermining the right to choose.
Despite not holding public office, Cahill has an anti-choice record. He was Gov. George Pataki’s chief of staff and stood with his administration as it promoted policies that denied New York women access to reproductive health services and empowered abortion opponents. His administration also vetoed expansion of access to emergency contraception and denied reproductive health care to thousands of women by contracting with health maintenance organizations that refused to provide these essential services. This practice was not disclosed to women before they enrolled â€“ imposing an undue burden by forcing them to find out-of-network providers after the fact.
Astorino and Cahill pose a sharp contrast to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Cuomo has always stood strong as an advocate of women’s reproductive rights in theory and in reality, as seen in all 10 points of the Women’s Equality Act. Schneiderman’s record of advocating for women is legendary, both as a state senator and now as attorney general. As a senator, he led the effort to pass the Clinic Anti-Violence Act to protect abortion clinic workers, doctors and patients from violence and harassment â€“ a bill that Astorino would have vetoed. It was signed into law in 1999, and was the first piece of pro-choice legislation enacted in New York in more than a decade.
Voters need to know that these four candidates are diametrically opposed when it comes to women’s rights. The fact that Astorino and Cahill do not care about what is in the best interest of 51 percent of the state population means they do not deserve to hold office in New York.
The writer is president of Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion â€“ Choice Matters.