Gender and Sexuality Column

Male politicians should follow the example of New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo and defend women’s reproductive rights

In today’s edition of pigs will fly, we see a male politician promising to improve women’s reproductive health care by actually — wait for it — improving women’s reproductive healthcare.

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced his proposal for an amendment to the New York State Constitution to protect abortion rights outlined under Roe v. Wade. Cuomo announced the proposal at an “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” rally in Albany in late January. The amendment would serve to protect New Yorkers’ abortion rights in the event that the Supreme Court under President Donald Trump’s administration repeals Roe v. Wade.

After Trump’s presidential campaign was laden with blatant disregard for women’s sexual and reproductive rights, Cuomo’s announcement comes as a breath of fresh air for women who, quite frankly, are sick of men without uteruses telling them what to do with theirs.

Jennifer Montez, a professor of sociology at Syracuse University, said Cuomo’s action is a resounding win for Democrats in a time when reproductive rights have been at the top of Trump’s hit list.

“This policy position that he’s taking is probably the most beneficial and most exciting, in terms of actually improving population health, that I have heard proposed in a very, very long time,” Montez said. “Somebody has to be first. I’m hoping that he can push this through New York state and other states can follow.”

Joined by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Cuomo expressed his belief that this is an unprecedented and imperative time for reproductive rights in the United States, and that there needs to be pushback from Democrats and left-leaning citizens across the nation.

“We will not allow the progress of the women’s movement to be stopped, and we must seize this opportunity to bring the state and the nation forward and stand up for women’s health,” he said at the rally.

 

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Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

 

The Trump administration — which touts an embarrassingly obscene number of white male cabinet members — could learn a thing or two from Cuomo’s approach to reproductive legislation. The goal of male politicians shouldn’t be to demonize and penalize women for their reproductive choices. Rather, it should be a collective effort to ensure that the more than 50 percent of our country’s population has 100 percent control over their own decisions.

A week prior to Cuomo’s Roe v. Wade proposal, the governor made efforts to protect aspects of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in New York state. Cuomo directed state insurers to guarantee contraceptive coverage to New York women without any co-pays or deductibles, even if Trump repeals the ACA.

What worries Montez the most is, if Roe v. Wade is repealed and abortion rights are decided on the state level, the states with the greatest need for abortion services will be the ones with the highest restrictions. She said women who are poor, low-educated and from certain regions of the country, like the rural South, will be most affected by restricted access to reproductive health services.

“This isn’t just a women’s health issue,” Montez said. “The more we talk about it as just a women’s health issue, the more we run the risk of people compartmentalizing the issue, and not realizing that this has national implications.”

With abortion services dramatically targeted toward serving low-income, unmarried minority women, Montez said the social class gradients already prevalent in society will be elevated to unfathomable levels.

We already know that minority women, impoverished women and women with lower levels of education are struggling in a system in which the odds are never in their favor. Coupled with a potential Roe v. Wade repeal, and the implications of freedom and right to self-preservation in the U.S. become nothing more than an illusion. In a country that prides itself on being a democracy for “We the People,” it seems that, in Trump’s mind, “we” has become “me.”

Despite the rocky future of national abortion legalization, Montez said she believes Cuomo’s proposal will be answered favorably by New Yorkers, signifying to the nation just how serious reproductive rights are.

In order to amend the New York State Constitution, Cuomo’s bill will have to pass through both chambers of Congress twice before sending it to the public to vote. Estimates say the earliest we can anticipate seeing the proposal on a public ballot is 2019. In the meantime, Montez said the reproductive rights of women are a national concern that everyone — and male politicians in particular — need to start taking seriously.

“Women have children — they’re bearing our children,” she said. “If women aren’t healthy, then what will the next generation look like? It’s scary.”

For too many women, making the decision between an abortion and a delivery is an all too poignant reality. We cannot ask our women to go back to the alleys, to venture overseas and across borders for dangerous — and often lethal — abortions. We cannot go back to coathangers or to drinking bleach.

There is no humanity in the depravity of human rights.

Kelsey Thompson is a sophomore magazine journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at katho101@syr.edu.

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