This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in City & State
The Women’s Equality Act has been hotly contested for the past two years, and now is the time to come together and deliver legislation that helps New York’s women. With one week remaining in this year’s legislative session, Albany must act now or it will be on course to let New York’s women down again.
It has been made very clear: The state Senate will not pass the omnibus bill put forward by the Assembly Democrats. Fortunately, Assembly members on both sides of the aisle have stepped forward and introduced nearly all of the 10 points as individual legislation. So why do we continue to linger in perpetuity?
Pay equity, an end to sexual harassment, prohibiting housing discrimination and protecting women from abuse: These are principles we all can agree upon. In fact, legislation on each of these subjects has passed the state Senate, and a bipartisan group of legislators has called for passage of these issues as individual bills in the Assembly.
The sticking point is somewhat perplexing. New York ranks among the top states in the nation for number of abortions performed. In New York City, a striking 41 percent of pregnancies end in abortion, equating to roughly 87,000 abortions per year. Clearly, there is not a lack of access to abortion here in our state. Then why do the Assembly Democrats continue to hold up so many good measures for a 10th plank that they claim simply “codifies” federal law? They need to stop holding the Women’s Equality Act hostage and put forth a plan we can all be proud of.
That’s why I’m focused on making the 10th piece of the women’s equality agenda about providing women with safe care in a health facility and ensuring it has been inspected by the Department of Health.
Earlier this year it was revealed that of the 25 abortion-providing clinics directly overseen by the department, only 17 were inspected, and only 45 routine inspections were conducted from 2000 to 2012. Eight of the facilities went through the entire 12-year period without a single visit. Whether pro-choice or pro-life, we can all agree that the health and safety of women is paramount and that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Assemblywoman Jane Corwin and I have introduced legislation that deals with this critical concern for women’s health—a real women’s health issue that could potentially mean life or death for a young woman visiting one of these clinics. Assembly Bill 9538, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Marty Golden (Senate Bill 7726), affirms a regular schedule for inspections of abortion clinics by the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, directs the commissioner to disseminate rules and standards by which abortion clinics must be evaluated, and directs the commissioner to create a report on the results of the inspections and submit that report to the Assembly, the Senate and the governor.
Instead of making women political pawns for the second year in a row, we should deliver them the equality they deserve. A true women’s agenda is about doing what’s right for women. It isn’t about riling up your base or putting the opposition party on the record with a vote on legislation that is clearly going nowhere.
I strongly urge my Assembly Democrat colleagues to do what’s right and bring up the Women’s Equality Agenda for a vote in a way that works for all involved. Each point can stand alone on its own merits. A 10-point agenda that includes regulation and inspection of women’s health centers would deliver meaningful results for New York’s women. Let’s stop playing politics and start protecting New York’s women.