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January 13, 2015

In its first act of the new year, the Senate Majority passed most of the components of the Women’s Equality Act.

The action provoked a knee-jerk negative response from the Senate Dems and women’s groups because it didn’t include a provision concerning reproductive rights.

This particular component has been the source of controversy over the last two years. The Republicans convinced themselves that it was “a radical expansion of abortion rights.” In reality, it’s not. It’s basically a codification in state law of existing Roe v. Wade provisions. It says, in effect, that if Roe v. Wade was ever struck down nationally, it will still be the law of the land in New York.

The women’s groups really want this provision. They believe that progressive New York should send a message to the rest of the nation that reproductive rights ought not to be messed with. That’s happening now in a big way in places like Texas, Arkansas and North Dakota.

We’re sympathetic to the goal of the women’s groups. It would be great if New York could counter the rightward tilt.  But until Roe v. Wade is struck down, there’s no imperative to pass this component. It’s a symbolic measure, and when you speak candidly with those in the women’s movement, they acknowledge as much.

So the question is: How long do you hold up progress because you can’t get every aspect of the WEA? If the Senate Republicans are willing to do eight or nine out of the ten provisions and if those measures are significant, do you really just sit on them? How long do you do that? One session? Two sessions? Forever?

In our view, the question of how long was decided in the last election. The Democrats ran in part of the Republicans’ position on women’s issues, and the Republicans won. The Republicans actually gained in the Senate. It’s their chamber now. They’ve now passed the bulk of the WEA and it’s up to the Dems in the Assembly to act.

Continued holdout by the Assembly Dems is not good policy or good politics. It’s not good policy because women could benefit if these bills were passed by both houses and signed into law. It’s not good politics because at some point it becomes clear to ordinary New Yorkers that the Assembly Dems are blocking progress to make an ideological point with only marginal value. In this regard, even if New York passes this measure, it’s not going in have any impact on people like nutty Governor Dalrymple of North Dakota.

The Assembly needs to act. It can’t hold up progress anymore.  It should pass the components approved by the Senate, while continuing to fight the good fight with the advocates over the remaining provision.

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