Protecting Women’s Equality, Safety and Health Care

A Report on the Alarming Nationwide War Against Women New York State Senate Democratic Conference

Protecting Women’s Equality, Safety and Health Care
“Throughout the country we are seeing the hard-won rights of women being infringed upon and outright stolen. We have an obligation as legislators to take a stand against this radical agenda and not simply provide assurances for these rights, but also expand them to provide better safeguards and protections for New York State women.”1

Across the United States, there has been steady and growing momentum to restrict the rights and equal protections of women in this country. Republicans at all levels of government across the nation have been systematically stripping away the rights women have fought decades to attain. This aggressively backward “War Against Women” is happening both in Congress and state capitals across the nation. The New York State Senate Democratic Conference believes that it is unacceptable to erode and discriminate against a woman’s rights, freedoms and health care needs. To help highlight and educate New Yorkers on these issues, the Senate Democratic Conference held a series of three public forums, focused on legislative bills and initiatives relating to pay equity and equal economic opportunities for women, protections from domestic violence, and health care protections and reproductive rights. The events, held in Albany and sponsored by Democratic Senators Liz Krueger, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, respectively, brought together members of the Democratic Conference, advocates and professionals from across the New York to address these vital issues.
“Now more than ever, we recognize that advances in women‟s rights cannot be taken for granted. These forums focus attention on important issues such as pay equity, reproductive freedom and domestic violence prevention that impact women of all ages and circumstances.”
-Senator Suzi Oppenheimer


Pay Equity and Economic Opportunity

“If working class women earned dollar for dollar what men earned, poverty rates in New York would be cut in half. Equal pay in the work place is not only a right earned by all women, but it is also the right way to strengthen New York‟s economy.”2

The first of the series of events was a roundtable held on May 12, 2012, hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger. Senator Krueger convened a panel of experts from across the state to discuss pay equity and economic opportunities. The panel focused on legislation designed to promote fairness and help stimulate and strengthen New York’s economic recovery by helping women enter or remain in the workplace and ensuring equal rights and fair pay. According to advocates and experts, by increasing the workforce and providing funds for training opportunities, New York can achieve long-term economic growth and fiscal security.

Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson. Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women in New York City. Statement at Senate Democratic Conference Roundtable on Women and the Economy. May 12, 2012.

Legislation discussed at the roundtable included the New York State Fair Pay Act, which would prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of sex, race and/or national origin. Despite existing federal and state anti-discrimination laws, unfair wage gaps persist between male and female employees jobs involving the essentially the same skills, responsibilities and working conditions. The disparity, whereby working women are paid only 77 cents compared to the dollar earned by their male counterparts,3 not only continues, but the prospect of retaliation by employers to punish employees for voluntarily sharing wage information with their colleagues remains a very real threat. The Wage and Transparency Act (S.5674 – Krueger) would prohibit such retaliation and provide for compensatory damages. Senator Krueger and roundtable participants discussed “Fairness and economic growth additional legislation designed to ensure equal rights go hand in hand, and it‟s time for and opportunities in the workplace. Bills included the Senate Republicans to get off commonsense legislation such as that which would the sidelines and work for both.” require employers to provide reasonable - Senator Liz Krueger accommodations for pregnant workers, thereby promoting healthier pregnancies and reducing the unnecessary displacement and turnover of pregnant workers (S.6273 - Krueger). This bill also includes occupational training programs which help women access higher-wage career paths. The panel agreed that these types of legislative initiatives would help women enter and remain in the workplace, strengthen the foundation for New York’s long-term economic prosperity by growing the workforce, ensure more family-friendly workplaces and provide funds for training opportunities.

Legislation discussed:   Paid Family Leave (S.1252 Addabbo): Creates a 22-week paid family leave program for new parents or workers who need to take time off to care for sick family members New York State Fair Pay Act (S.2200 Krueger / A.6130 Wright): Would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex race and/or national origin for work in equivalent jobs Wage Transparency Act (S.5674 Krueger / A.8348 Meng): Would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries Reasonable Accommodations (S.6273 Krueger / A.9114 Gunther): would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women Increase in Minimum Wage (S.6335 Espaillat): Would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 in 2013 and $9.25 in 2014 and link raising the minimum wage to the rate of inflation starting in 2015

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Participants of the Pay Equity Forum:  A Better Balance – Dina Bakst  City of Albany, Treasurer – Kathy Sheehan  League of Women Voters – Barbara Bartoletti

The National Committee on Pay Equity. “Wage Gap Statistically Unchanged.” Available at

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Legal Momentum – Michelle Caiola New York Women’s Agenda – Bev Neufeld NYS Paid Family Leave Coalition – Donna Dolan, Martha Baker Pay Equity Coalition NYC - Lois Haignere, Barb Thomas Women’s Bar Association (via Manatt) – Sandra Rivera YWCA - Kelli Owens, Shannon Wong

YouTube Video: Senator Liz Krueger Hosts Roundtable on Economic Issues Facing Women

Scribd: Documents and Handouts: Senator Liz Krueger Hosts Roundtable on Economic Issues Facing Women


Protections for Domestic Violence

“The victims of domestic violence deserve a criminal justice system that not only protects them from further abuse, but one which also defends their dignity.”4 The second event, held on May 30, 2012, was a public forum hosted by Senator Ruth HassellThompson. The forum focused on the need to reform and to improve the criminal justice system’s responses to domestic violence-related offenses and on protecting victims of domestic violence from further assaults by their attackers. The public forum was attended by members of the Senate Democratic Conference, activists, and criminal justice professionals. A number of bills discussed during the proceedings, including legislation to ensure safe, affordable housing to domestic violence survivors and a bill to mandate better training and services at hospitals. “Domestic violence is not a Also discussed was legislation requiring hospitals to local issue. It is a national offer to contact a local advocate when admitting or issue, indeed an international issue that we must continue to treating confirmed or suspected domestic violence cases address.” as well as bills to extend the statute of limitations on - Senator Hassell-Thompson domestic violence offenses and ensure those accused of domestic violence are not given access to firearms. Additionally, the forum addressed the urgent need to reform the state’s criminal justice system to protect the rights and dignity of domestic violence victims and provide them with greater safeguards against their abusers. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act would provide judges with the discretion to sentence domestic violence survivors convicted of crimes related to the abuse they suffered to shorter prison terms. Legislation has also been proposed to provide judges with the discretion to impose the use of global positioning devices as a condition of release under certain circumstances.

Legislation discussed:  Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (S.5436 Hassell-Thompson / A.7874 Aubry): would give judges the authority to hear motions for reduced sentences from domestic violence survivors Hospital Domestic Violence Policies and Procedures (S.1850 Oppenheimer / A.7585 Lavine): adds a new section to the Public Health Law requiring hospitals to establish policies, procedures, training programs and services to victims of domestic violence Domestic Violence Housing (S.3784 Hassell-Thompson / A.10289 Stevenson): would prohibit housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence Extends the Statute of Limitations (S.840 Stavisky / A.2090 Zebrowski): would extend the statute of limitations for victims of domestic violence to file assault charges, from one year to two years; it also stipulates that no criminal charge can be brought or obtained as a condition of bringing a civil cause of action or receiving a civil judgment.

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William Gibney, Director of the Criminal Practice Special Litigation Unit at the Legal Aid Society. Statement at the Senate Democratic Conference Forum on Domestic Violence. May 30, 2012.

“New York State Violence Against Women Act: (S.7412 Stavisky / A. 10286 Meng): prohibits state and local law enforcement from inquiring or disclosing any information as to the immigration status of the victim when making a domestic violence arrest Order of Protection Barring Individuals from the Home (S.3533 Oppenheimer): provides that in cases where it is alleged and there is cause to believe that an individual has committed acts that constitute a threat of harm, the court shall consider, upon request, that the order of protection bar the individual from the home Suspension/Revocation of Firearms Licenses upon the Issuance of Orders of Protection (S.674 Peralta / A.1475 Rosenthal): closes a dangerous loophole in the CPL and Family Court Act provisions governing the immediate surrender of firearms, and the immediate revocation or suspension of firearm licenses, in both criminal and Family Court cases where an order of protection is issued Inquiry Regarding the Ownership of a Firearm (S.1003 Peralta / A.2494-B O’Donnell): protects victims of domestic violence by requiring criminal or family court judges to inquire about the defendant's or respondent's possession of a firearm when orders of protection are sought

Participants of the Domestic Violence Forum:  American Cancer Society - Sherry Tomaski  Children’s Defense Fund - Erin Hoben  Family Planning Advocates - Tracey Brooks  NARAL Pro-Choice NY - Sabrina Shulman  NYCLU - Corrine Carey  NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA)- Joanne Zannoni  Raising Women’s Voices - Jasmine Burnett  Victim, Military Sexual Trauma - Ardeane Cook  YWCAs of the Northeast - Kelli Owens

YouTube Video: Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson Hosts Forum on Domestic Violence

Scribd: Documents and handouts: Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson Hosts Forum on Domestic Violence


Women’s Health Care Rights

“We applaud the Senate Democratic Conference for the leadership it has shown in advancing legislation important to New York‟s women. It is common sense that when a woman is safe, healthy and compensated fairly, she is a greater contributor to the economic stability of her family, her community and the state.”5 On June 5, 2012 the last of the events was hosted by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and focused on women’s health care rights, services and legislation needed to improve and modernize New York’s public health laws. Health professionals, advocates and Senate Democrats joined Senator Stewart-Cousins to discuss a number of bills, including the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which has the support of 70 percent of all New Yorkers,6 would guarantee that every woman can make her own personal, private health care decision, especially when her health is endangered. The bill would fix a troubling gap in New York’s law and treat the regulation of abortion as an issue of public health and “It‟s time to have a real medical practice rather than as a potential crime. conversation about the specific Also discussed at the health care forum was the need for legislation which would address military sexual trauma experienced by female veterans. Other legislation included counseling coverage for breast and cervical cancer screenings, a bill prohibiting pharmacists from refusing to dispense prescription or non-prescription drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration solely based on the pharmacist’s philosophical, moral or religious beliefs.
health needs of New York‟s women; especially as many states have proposed or enacted measures that threatens the system of care. It is more important than ever that New York stand up and affirm the rights of women to access these critical health services.”
-Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins

The Health Benefit Exchange program, an initiative that was expedited by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order #42 and allows for the creation of health exchanges in New York, was also discussed and was detailed in a PowerPoint presentation provided by the Children’s Defense Fund. They discussed implementation and current and future benefits of the Health Care Exchange program on the children of New York State. Legislation Discussed:  Military Sexual Trauma (S.6342-C Huntley / A.10312-A N. Rivera): will help in the development of plans to adequately address Military Sexual Trauma experienced by female veterans through the dissemination of information about where they can seek treatment and counseling Reproductive Health Act (S.2844 Stewart-Cousins / A. 6112 Glick): codifies protections recognized by the United States Supreme Court and allows for every woman


-M. Tracey Brooks, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates. Statement at the Senate Democratic Conference Public Forum on Women’s Health Issues. June 5, 2012. 6 National Organization for Women, New York. “Women Need Access to Reproductive Health Care!” Available at

to make her own personal, private health care decision, especially when her health is endangered  Emergency Contraception (S.892 Krueger / A.85 Paulin): would allow a licensed physician to prescribe and order a non-patient-specific regimen to a registered professional nurse for emergency contraception, to be administered to or selfadministered to the patient. Pharmacist Refusal (S.894 Krueger): would prohibit a pharmacist from refusing to dispense or refill a prescription or non-prescription drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration solely based on the pharmacist's philosophical, moral or religious beliefs Mandatory Minimum Medicaid Coverage (S.2556 Huntley / A.6983 Cook): would require Medicaid to cover hospital coverage for at least 48 hours after a vaginal delivery and 96 hours after a caesarean section Cancer Screenings Deductibles and Co-Pays (S.841 Stavisky): exempts certain cancer screenings, including mammography screenings and cervical cytology screenings, from a 15 dollar HMO co-pay Coverage for Cervical Cytology Screenings (S.6603 Stavisky): Requires coverage for cervical cytology screening for insureds by certain corporations and insurance policies: every policy with hospital, surgical or medical care, group or blanket policy, and medical expense indemnity corporation Health Benefit Exchange: Discussion included the formation of the exchange, what aspects of HBE are most import to women’s health in New York, and how the HBE will impact the need for the legislation discussed.

Participants at the Health Care Forum:  American Cancer Society - Sherry Tomaski  Children’s Defense Fund - Erin Hoben  Family Planning Advocates - Tracey Brooks  NARAL Pro-Choice NY - Sabrina Shulman  NYCLU - Corrine Carey  NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) - Joanne Zannoni  Raising Women’s Voices - Jasmine Burnett  Victim, Military Sexual Trauma - Ardeane Cook  YWCAs of the Northeast - Kelli Owens YouTube Video: Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins Hosts Women’s Health Forum Scribd: Documents and Handouts: Senator Stewart-Cousins Hosts Forum on Women’s Health: Testimony and Supporting Documents



“This „war on women‟ is real, it has real consequences, and we‟re not going to stand idly by while a generation‟s progress towards equality is threatened. Equality for one means equality for all – and that includes women.”7 Throughout the country we are seeing the hard-won rights of women being infringed upon and outright stolen. Issues like women’s health and workplace equality should not be controversial. These are simply matters of equal rights that we should all be proud to stand up for. The idea that these issues are deemed controversial by the Senate Republicans is not only astounding, it is also deeply disconcerting. Senate Republicans have allowed New York to become yet another battleground in the ongoing radical war against women. It is the hope of the Senate Democratic Conference that with the information and insights gained from the advocates, experts and concerned New Yorkers, the Senate Majority will agree that these are not partisan or controversial issues, but simply matters of equal rights and protections.

“There are some who say that Democrats have manufactured a phony „war on women.‟ There‟s nothing phony about women making $0.77 on the dollar compared to men. There‟s nothing phony about state legislatures trying to criminalize a women‟s right to make healthcare decisions for herself. There‟s nothing phony about Congressional Republicans dragging their feet on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. -Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

2012 Media Coverage on Women’s Forums


Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, announcing the creation of the series of Senate Democratic Public Forums. Available at

Krueger Takes on the ‘War on Women’ NewYorkPress 5/2/12 Skelos Nudged on Womens' Issues Capital Tonight 5/4/2012 Dems Needle Skelos on Women's Issues The Journal News - Blog (Politics on the Hudson) 5/4/2012 War on Women' Trickles Down to Albany Capital Tonight 5/7/2012 Sen. Krueger Talks Women's Issues Capital Tonight 5/9/2012 Forum/Town Hall: Sen. Krueger, Senate Democratic Conference Host Capitol Forum on Women in the Workforce Liz Krueger 5/15/2012 Senate Democratic Conference Holds Public Forum on Domestic Violence Ruth Hassell-Thompson 5/30/2012 Senate Dems discuss women's health at panel Times Union - Blog (Capital Confidential) 6/5/2012

Senate Democratic Conference on Women’s Equity Long Island Exchange

6/5/2012 Senate Democratic Conference Continue Push on Women's Health and Pay Equity Neil D. Breslin 6/5/2012 Women's Health Forum Shirley L. Huntley 6/5/2012 Senator Hassell-Thompson Co-Sponsors New Domestic Violence Laws Ruth Hassell-Thompson 6/12/2012 Statement from Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson on the Domestic Violence Agreement John Sampson 6/22/2012


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