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June 12, 2013

Equality Act about more than abortion

The Daily Star

---- — Could it have been 50 long years ago Monday when President John F. Kennedy uttered these words?

“I am delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort … to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job.”

But 50 years later, the inequity remains. It was only two days ago that the current president noted that there is still work to be done for women’s equality.

“When more women are bringing home the bacon, they shouldn’t be getting just a little bit of bacon,” said President Barack Obama. “Over the course of her career, a working woman with a college degree will earn on average hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who does the same work. Now, that’s wrong.”

A year ago, the Paycheck Fairness Act lost to a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Here in New York, we cannot count on a divided Congress to right the wrong of women in our state making only 84 percent of what males earn. It’s apparent that something must be done on the state level.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a “Women’s Equality Act” that includes measures aimed at preventing sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, domestic violence and human trafficking, in addition to helping to ensure pay equity.

If that were all that was in the bill, there probably would be little opposition to it in the Legislature. However, the legislation also includes changes in New York’s abortion law that opponents say will open the door for abortions performed by non-physicians and would lead to more late-term abortions.

Under current law, physicians’ assistants under the doctors’ supervision may perform abortions. That wouldn’t change under Cuomo’s proposal that affirms a woman’s right to an abortion “as established by the United States Supreme Court in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade” before a fetus is considered “viable” or “when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health as determined by a licensed physician.”

New York’s abortion law hasn’t been amended since before Roe v. Wade. Cuomo’s legislation merely brings the state in line with the established national law. The effect would be that if that Roe were overturned in the future, a woman’s freedom of choice would be preserved in New York.

We urge Sens. James Seward and John Bonacic to support the bill in its entirety. It would be a shame if the abortion question — on which people in good faith may disagree — should prevent the other needed protections for women to be enacted.