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Senate Democratic Conference Announces Upcoming Events to Discuss and Advocate for Women’s Issues Events will Highlight Need for Legislative Action to Confront the “War on Women”
(Albany, NY) – The Senate Democratic Conference today announced a series of events to highlight issues currently facing women in New York. Additionally these roundtables and forums will focus on legislation currently proposed in the Senate regarding pay equity, equal economic opportunities for women, health and reproductive rights, and protection from domestic violence. “In light of the Senate Republicans‟ refusal to bring much needed legislation to the floor for a vote, our conference will be conducting open forums and roundtables to ensure these bills and issues are discussed in public,” Conference Leader Senator John Sampson said. “Throughout the country we are seeing the hard-won rights of women being infringed 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.” As a national “war against women” continues to be waged in Congress and state capitols throughout the country, the Senate Democratic Conference is standing up to continue New York‟s proud tradition of progressive leadership. The conference rejects the notion that equal rights and protections for women is a polarizing issue, and therefore is reaching out across the aisle to Senate Republicans to be active participants in the upcoming events. A roundtable will be held by Senator Liz Krueger to discuss pay equity and economic opportunities for New York State women. This event will focus on legislation designed to promote fairness and help stimulate and strengthen our state‟s economic recovery through helping women enter or remain in the workplace and ensure their equal rights and fair pay. By growing the workforce and providing funds for training opportunities, New York can achieve long-term economic growth and fiscal security. “Fairness and economic growth go hand in hand, and it‟s time for the State Senate to get off the sidelines and work for both,” said Senator Liz Krueger. “Women earn less than men doing the same work, and women are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs. Eliminating the wage gap and helping New York‟s women pursue higher-wage jobs are key steps both for fairness and for the kind of economic growth that will benefit New York‟s working families.”
Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson will preside over a forum to discuss the issue of providing additional protections to the victims of domestic violence. The forum will focus on the need to reform and improve the criminal justice system‟s responses to domestic violence-related offenses and protect victims of domestic violence from further assaults by their attackers. “The issue of addressing and ending domestic violence and reforming the criminal justice system should not turn on whether you are a Democrat or a Republican,” Senator Ruth HassellThompson said. “The issue should be decided on what is good for the people of the State of New York and how to tailor public policy to advance the safety of our children and family members who may be victims of abuse and violence. Our public forums will give advocates and members of the public the opportunity to present their ideas for effective public policy. We invite everybody concerned with domestic violence issues to join us in Albany.” A forum will be hosted by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins on women‟s health issues and concerns. Legislation will be discussed at this forum which focuses on improving and modernizing New York‟s public health laws. The forum will not only examine current attacks on women‟s reproductive rights, but will also discuss bills not yet brought before the Senate for a vote which have a direct impact on all aspects of women‟s health. “It‟s time to have a real conversation about the specific health needs of New York‟s women,” said Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “This forum will bring issues such as reproductive health, breast and cervical cancer screening and other women‟s health matters to the forefront. Indeed, many states have proposed or enacted measures that threaten the system of care that addresses women‟s unique health needs. It is more important than ever that New York stand up and affirm the rights of women to access these critical health services.” These three events will highlight critical issues facing New York State women, as well as multiple pieces of legislation that will address these problems when enacted. Unfortunately, these bills have not yet been brought before the entire Senate for a vote. It is the hope of the Democratic Conference that following these roundtables and forums and after hearing from 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 on the other side of aisle 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,” Senator Toby Stavisky said. “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. 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.” “By defending the rights of women we are defending the rights of everyone. There is no rational basis for the blatant disregard against the rights of women as evidenced in legislation proposed by lawmakers in some states, and even in Congress” Senator Velmanette Montgomery said.
“New York State, a progressive State, should set a national example on this issue. I applaud Senator Krueger, Senator Stewart-Cousins, and Senator Hassell-Thompson for chairing these forums and I join with my leader, Senator Sampson, in calling on the Majority to attend and bring women‟s legislation to the Senate floor during this session.” “Now more than ever, we recognize that advances in women‟s rights cannot be taken for granted,” Senator Suzi Oppenheimer said. “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.” “The Women‟s Suffrage movement started in New York in the 19th century and achieved many accomplishments,” said Senator Shirley L. Huntley. “However, in the 21st century women are still struggling to attain a level and fair playing field in relation to pay equity, employment, and health rights. It is imperative that issues that affect a woman‟s life and opportunity to succeed are high priorities for those engaged in policy decisions across New York State.” M. Tracey Brooks, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates, said, “We applaud the Senate Democratic Conference for the leadership it has shown in advancing legislation important to New York‟s women, especially in the face of the anti-women‟s agenda in other parts of the country and in Congress. 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. Our hope is that the planned forums will raise awareness of these issues and bring much-needed legislation to a vote in the Senate, including the Reproductive Health Act. Seven out of 10 New York voters support passage of the Reproductive Health Act which will guarantee a woman can make her own personal, private health care decisions, especially when her health is endangered during pregnancy.” Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women in New York City, said, “If working class women earned dollar for dollar what men earned, poverty rates in New York would be cut in half. Pervasive stereotyping about care-giving responsibilities impact salaries, pay increases, and promotions and women bear the brunt of it. 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.” Andrea Miller, President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said, “We applaud the senators who are confronting the „War on Women‟ by continuing New York‟s strong tradition of bipartisan leadership on issues that help strengthen New York‟s women and families. Access to quality reproductive health care is central to our ability to be healthy and control the trajectories of our lives. New York has a singular opportunity this year to improve the health of its residents and set an example for the rest of the country to follow. Passing the Reproductive Health Act this year will mean that women will be able to make their own personal, private health care decisions, especially when their health is in danger. While other states are rolling back the clock on reproductive rights, New York can - and should - be moving the ball forward.” Dina Bakst and Sherry Leiwant, Co-Presidents of A Better Balance, said, “A Better Balance commends the Senate Democratic Conference for hosting a series of roundtables to highlight
much-needed legislation to advance the rights of women and families in New York State. Fair pay, stronger protections for pregnant workers and new mothers, and paid family leave insurance are critical to the health and economic security of the women and families of New York State.” Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Director of the Women in Prison Project at the Correctional Association of New York, said: “We applaud Senators Hassell-Thompson, Krueger and Stewart-Cousins and the Senate Democratic conference for standing up for the rights of women across the state. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, sponsored by women‟s rights champion Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, is a critical part of this effort. All too often, DV survivors who defend themselves from their abusers are sent to prison for years, sometimes decades. When this happens, it represents a shameful miscarriage of justice. Instead of giving survivors who have suffered life-shattering abuse compassion and assistance, we give them harsh punishment and incarceration. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act would allow New York to take a significant step toward reversing this unjust practice and help the state reduce its costly overreliance on incarceration without compromising public safety. Over 100 domestic violence and social service organizations and thousands of women from across the state stand with Senator Hassell-Thompson in support of this bill.” Lois Haignere and Barb Thomas of the League of Women Voters and the New York State Pay Equity Coalition explained that, “Millions still work for less than their job-title content is worth. They work as librarians, secretaries, health aids, early childhood educators, bookkeepers, social workers, teaching assistant and other job titles traditionally filled by women. Unfortunately, the Ledbetter Act and federal equal pay for equal work laws do not address pay inequities across different but equally-valued job titles. Pay equity legislation simply requires that employers use the same job evaluation system to evaluate both male and female job titles and pay them accordingly. Traditionally-female job titles should be paid the same as male dominated job titles requiring comparable skills and responsibilities.” Martha Baker and Donna Dolan of the NY Paid Leave Coalition said, “The NY Paid Leave Coalition salutes our 3 Senate champions - Liz Krueger, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Ruth Hassell-Thompson - for hosting forms on issues of great concern to women. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues: pay equity, economic development, healthcare and domestic violence and support pending legislation that would address the needs of women and families in our State. The Coalition will continue our efforts, working in collaboration with these leaders, to pass a paid family leave insurance bill to provide working parents the necessary leave to care for newborns and loved ones in times of crisis - without fear of losing their jobs. Responding to these crises at home and in the workplace will create a healthier and economically stronger NY State. Thank you, Senators, for your leadership and your efforts on our behalf.” Honorable Barbara Smith, Member of the Albany Common Council, said, “I am pleased that members of the New York State Senate are providing opportunities for dialogue about critical issues that not only affect women, but all residents of New York State.”
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