March 3rd, 2014

The Demise of Abortion Rights in New York State

The end of abortion rights in New York State is coming, and not with a bang but with a whimper. Its demise is already in full swing. The cause is the election of politicians like Jeff Klein and Michael Kaplowitz who claimed to be pro-choice advocates to get our votes but then aligned themselves with anti-choice extremists immediately upon their election. The deceptive tactics of the Kleins and Kaplowitzs are effectively facilitating the erosion of a woman’s right to choose right here, right now.
These elected officials – Klein to the New York State Senate and Kaplowitz to the Westchester County Legislature – lied to the pro-choice community to get elected, and then consciously turned their backs on their constituents for their own political gain.

Why? Because New York State is a pro-choice state with the vast majority of voters supporting comprehensive reproductive rights, which includes abortion. Eighty percent of New Yorkers support the passage of the Reproductive Health Act “which is aimed at protecting reproductive freedom for women, ensuring a woman’s right to make private health care decisions regarding pregnancy. At least two-thirds of voters from every party, region and demographic group support it, with the exception of self-identified conservatives who support it 64-29 percent.” Sienna Research Institute

Decisions Made for Personal Gain, at Our Expense
Jeff Klein, immediately after being re-elected to the New York State Senate to represent SD 34 (Pelham and part of Mount Vernon and the Bronx), aligned himself with the Republican anti-choice extremist Dean Skelos. Klein claimed it was an act of independence. In reality, it was a power-grab by a self-absorbed, egocentric politician who thought it was more important to enhance his own personal power than to stand up for women who elected him and make up his constituency.
Did you know that it was Senator Klein who refused to bring the 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda to the floor of the Senate for a vote – just because anti-choice Skelos did not approve?

Unfortunately, Klein would rather stand with Skelos than with the women of New York—and Klein doesn’t care that by doing so, he, Klein, is empowering and advancing an anti-choice agenda.

Let’s remember that Jeff Klein, when he served as a NYS Assemblyman, used WCLA – Choice Matters and the issue of Choice to win his primary for New York State Senate. Klein swore then, as he has every election since, that nothing would stand between him and fighting for a woman’s right to comprehensive reproductive rights – which includes the right to have an abortion. Clearly, he lied.

And then we have Michael Kaplowitz who was just re-elected to represent CLD 4 (New Castle and parts of Yorktown, and Somers). Kaplowitz has had his eye on being Westchester County Board Chairman for years. So, as soon as he was re-elected, Kaplowitz went to the anti-choice legislators with whom he had voted to pass the 2012 budget that gutted funding to community health centers, food pantries and senior nutrition programs, and dramatically raised the cost of childcare, to negotiate his deal. Kaplowitz agreed to support Jim Maisano (who voted against ensuring safe access to reproductive health care clinics) for the position of Westchester County Board Vice – Chairman and to appoint Sheila Marcotte (who opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman) as Budget Committee Chairperson in exchange for making Kaplowitz the new Westchester County Board Chairman. 

It is important to understand that the Budget Committee is, in fact, the most important committee for women’s rights. The departments that relate to women and families comprise a large portion of the county budget. The Budget Chairperson decides what will appear on the agenda and who will be heard.

Kaplowitz single-handedly empowered the anti-choice minority on the Board at the expense of women throughout Westchester County. Now this minority can work with Westchester’s right-to-life extremist County Executive who has already imprinted an anti-choice agenda on his administration – ending sex education funding, receiving awards for abstinence-only program support and vetoing the most basic of rights, safe access to reproductive health care. Kaplowitz, personally, has empowered this County Executive zealot, Rob Astorino, who called abortion “a straw man” as he prepares to run for governor.

Call to Action
These men – Klein and Kaplowitz – are just two examples of politicians who have betrayed our trust, pretending to be our allies while working against us. They made promises to the pro-choice majority and are reneging. They are hurting us on the local and state levels, and they think we are not smart enough to see through their charade.

But I know they’re wrong because we have you — and it’s your commitment, your unwavering dedication to protecting women’s health and rights that will make the difference this year. Please, make your gift right now.