False liberalism threatens women’s rights

There has been a hailstorm brewing in Texas all summer.

The Republican party in the country’s second-largest state has been waging a war on female-bodied people, with governor Rick Perry calling for a special session of the Senate to pass a bill that would effectively close all but five women’s health clinics across 268,581 square miles and ban abortions after 20 weeks, without exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

The same is true in North Carolina, where the Republican party there sneakily attached an anti-abortion bill to a motorcycle safety bill, rushing it through the House (where it passed) and putting North Carolina on its way to closing many of its own clinics.

This may sound like just another day in the South for some, but it’s not just that — and it’s not just a southern problem. Wisconsin has passed a “mandatory ultrasound” bill. Ohio is in the midst of its own pro-choice versus pro-”life” fight.

And the state of New York, known for having legal abortion even before Roe v. Wade, has failed to pass a bill that would strengthen laws meant to protect women’s rights, because one of them deals with abortion.

In June, myself and others from the Western New York region made a trip to Albany, joining people from Central New York, Long Island, New York City and the Hudson Valley (among other areas) to rally for the Women’s Equality Act, a 10-point plan governor Andrew Cuomo introduced in his State of the State address last year.

It established such things as pay equity and stronger laws against sexual harassment, human trafficking, hiring discrimination against pregnant women and housing discrimination against domestic violence survivors. About 80 percent of New Yorkers (in the state, not just the city) supported this bill.

The Assembly passed all ten points easily. The Senate, however, held it up based on the one provision that would bring Roe v. Wade in state law.

Senators, egged on by pro-life groups, claimed it would allow anyone to perform an abortion even without a medical license, and that it “expanded” abortion. This included Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, a Republican who oversees the Ninth Senate District in southwestern Nassau County.

None of these things were true, but the falsehoods were enough to keep the bill from becoming law, and it brought me to the conclusion that the “liberal myth” may well have run its course in New York State.

Just like the assumption that everyone in Texas is a gun-toting, God-fearing conservative, the idea that everyone in New York swings left is definitely an incorrect one.

I was reminded of these incorrect stereotypes both in living and volunteering here after 19 years in Brooklyn, and watching Senator Wendy Davis and other pro-choice senators, as well as all of the pro-choice constituents in the state of Texas, do their best to fight and block Senate Bill 5 from coming to a vote.

In my work to promote the Women’s Equality Act, in the midst of the support and affirmation were plenty of middle fingers and shouts of “But women already have rights!” or “I hope you’re not also for killing babies!” (There was one “Make me a sandwich” as well, which would have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetically sad.)

These sentiments aren’t exclusive to Buffalo, surely, and I don’t mean to paint everyone with the same brush — but it bears reminding of how conservative and perhaps narrow-minded many people in the state can be, particularly when it comes to women’s reproductive and health rights.

Our politics are no guarantee of liberal minds, either. Though New York did turn out to be a blue state overall, giving its electoral votes to President Barack Obama in 2012, the county breakdown revealed a much closer vote in some areas than the bigger picture, with much of upstate and central New York voting for Mitt Romney.

The Republican Party is a majority in the state Senate, and that party is by and large no friend of women or people of color, as last year’s presidential election showed.

The message is clear: we are no more secure in this “blue” state than we are in a red one like Texas. We need to keep fighting for our rights, reproductive or otherwise, and we cannot be complacent. Otherwise, we may find ourselves losing them.

Angelica Rodriguez can be reached by email at [email protected].