Democratic elected officials from across Westchester joined forces with representatives of women’s organizations on Saturday in Mount Kisco for a rally in front of an overflow crowd to urge passage of the stalled Women’s Equality Act.
The event at the Mount Kisco Public Library, which was the first of three stops in the Hudson Valley last weekend for a campaign bus tour dubbed the Women’s Equality Express, also doubled as a campaign stop to support Justin Wagner, the Democrats’ candidate in the 40th state Senate District.
During the program, Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, announced that she and Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorse Wagner in his race against Republican Terrence Murphy. The race for the open seat being vacated by state Sen. Greg Ball at the end of the year is viewed by both parties statewide as one of a handful that could tip the balance of power in the Senate. If the Democrats gain control, the legislation could be passed.
Wagner questioned why women are still fighting for equal pay and protections in 2014. He vowed to support the Women’s Equality Act should he win on Nov. 4.
“In the New York state Senate, we are one vote short from passing the Women’s Equality Act,” Wagner told the crowd. “One vote short. I will tell you, and I am pledging today, to be that single vote.”
Speakers during the event slammed Murphy and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, accusing the pair of trying to turn back the clock 40 years and limit women’s reproductive rights. Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice NY, said that women’s health is under attack across the nation as some states have passed more restrictive laws.
Miller said New York must move forward and offer the full protections afforded in the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
“That means that this election cycle the stakes are high, the differences are stark and the choices couldn’t be clearer–Rob Astorino, who is also running for governor, and Terrence Murphy who is the handpicked successor to your incredibly ultraconservative, anti-choice and anti-woman, anti-equality sitting state senator, who thankfully has the good fortune for all of you to leave office, needs to be replaced with the antithesis of who he is,” Miller said.
Hochul also warned supporters that many Republicans are too extreme on women’s issues.
“In state capitals all across this nation they’re turning back the clock of progress on women’s rights,” she said.
The Women’s Equality Act is a 10-point bill that addresses issues such as equal pay, preventing sexual harassment, stopping pregnancy discrimination and fighting human trafficking. While lawmakers and candidates of both parties generally agree on nine points, it is the portion related to reproductive rights that has been the source of controversy.
Under New York’s abortion law, which was passed in 1970, a woman is not protected if there is a serious complication that jeopardizes her health later in pregnancy. The state’s law only provides protection if a woman’s life is in danger.
Shortly after the close of Saturday’s rally in Mount Kisco, representatives of the Murphy and Astorino campaigns harshly criticized the characterizations that their candidates are anti-women.
Murphy spokesman T. J. McCormack said his candidate supports the first nine points but Democrats are willing to hold the bill hostage by including the reproductive health segment because many Republicans are against including late-term abortions.
McCormack said that Murphy has no interest in re-litigating Roe v. Wade and that there is no chance it will be turned back.
“What Dr. Murphy is concerned about is making sure we can pass protections against domestic violence, protections against human trafficking, generating equal pay,” McCormack said.
William O’Reilly, a spokesman for Astorino, said it was hypocritical for state Democrats to call Republicans anti-women but refuse to go after one of their own, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, for covering up sexual assaults.
“Abortion has been legal in New York since 1970,” O’Reilly said. “Everyone knows that’s never changing. What’s breathtaking is the hypocrisy of Gov. Cuomo’s tour. How can he say he believes in women’s rights when he refuses to call on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign after Silver was caught covering up sex assaults in Albany committed by powerful Democrats?”