Guest column: Women’s rights under attack

Our nation is in troubling times and we are seeing daily attacks on our fundamental rights and values. Our daughters and granddaughters are now faced with the threat of having rights we have had protected for over 40 years stripped away from them. Women’s rights are under attack and the state Senate Republicans have refused to protect New York women from these assaults. The fight for women’s health care impacts millions of New Yorkers and it is one that we must win.

Women’s rights are human rights. The same extremism that is coming out of Washington is also threatening women’s rights here in New York. The state Senate Republicans are unanimously anti-choice and have refused to take any action to protect women’s health care rights, despite the fact that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support these critical issues. The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court means that New York State must do everything in its power to protect women’s rights. As state Senate Republicans refuse to protect women’s rights, we must elect more Democratic state senators this November.

It is shocking that in 2018, in a progressive state like New York, we are still arguing that women’s reproductive health care is a right that should be protected and respected. What makes this even more absurd is that in 1970, when New York helped lead the nation by decriminalizing abortion, it was done through a Republican-controlled Senate, with the support of 12 Senate Republicans, and signed into law by a Republican governor. And now, nearly 50 years later, not a single Senate Republican will stand up to codify Roe v. Wade into state law. Clearly, the only way to protect women’s rights in New York is to elect Democrats to the state Senate and finally achieve a Democratic majority there.

The Reproductive Health Act, supported by Senate Democrats and our Long Island candidates, will ensure that New York State law treats abortion as health care, not a criminal act, by simply bringing New York’s law up to date with Roe v. Wade. Senate Democrats have fought long and hard to bring RHA to the floor for a vote but Senate Republicans have continually blocked RHA from becoming law. The fact that all Senate Republicans and their candidates for office — even those in more moderate and progressive parts of New York, like Long Island — oppose this bill should be shocking and alarming to New York voters.

If the Supreme Court repeals Roe v. Wade, the burden will be on each state to set up laws regarding women’s health care rights and protections. This puts New York in a dangerous situation because we decriminalized abortion before the Roe v. Wade decision. As New York’s nearly 50-year-old law is inadequate and out-of-date, our residents will actually lose protections if Roe is overturned. This is why the Senate Democrats have been so focused on pushing for passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which has overwhelming support among New York voters.

New York is in a position to make major strides in protecting women’s health care rights but it is clear that this critical legislation will pass only if we elect a strong Democratic majority to the state Senate. Our message to anti-choice Republicans in the state Senate is that we will no longer allow them to hold back progress or stifle women’s rights. New York women deserve Senate leadership that will stand up for their rights, not hold them back.

Mr. Bellone is the Suffolk County executive and Ms. Stewart-Cousins is a state senator representing part of Westchester County. Both are Democrats.

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