This letter was featured by the New York Daily News, “Women’s Group wants Cuomo to back state constitutional convention”
Governor Andrew Cuomo
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
We write to you as your constituents and members of the board of Forward March NY, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering New York women to enact meaningful political change. We urge you to support the efforts to hold a constitutional convention for the state of New York.
The current political climate in Washington D.C. and the tipping of the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of conservatives have made it vital for us to reaffirm women’s reproductive rights in New York. This measure would defend the women of our state against any curtailment of federal protections. “As they threaten this nation with a potential Supreme Court nomination that will reverse Roe v. Wade,” you stated in a January 30, 2017 speech, “I want them to know today: If that’s what they do, we’re going to protect Roe v. Wade in the state of New York.”
The state legislative session has ended, and State Senate Republicans will likely block any future action. You and Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts (PPESA) have agreed, a constitutional amendment is the best way to permanently protect a woman’s access to birth control and abortion services in New York. “With a constitutional amendment, that right will be guaranteed by the state constitution,” said PPESA’s Kim Atkins, “so that it cannot be stripped away, no matter what happens at the federal level.” Birth control is a medical necessity for some, not just a contraceptive. The morality of abortion may be controversial to some, but a woman’s right to her own body should not be.
You have voiced your interest in amending the state constitution to protect women’s reproductive rights. That process is daunting, and the political gridlock that exists in Albany offers no comfort to any New York citizen. In light of this, the only way to protect women’s rights in this state is to put the power back into their hands. You can do this by endorsing and fully supporting a ‘Yes’ vote for a constitutional convention when it appears on the electoral ballot this coming November–an initiative that your late father, an incredibly respected leader in our state, supported as early as 2009. Since the state constitutional convention can only be voted on every twenty years, if we are not doing everything in our power to call for the convention, we may lose our opportunity once again, and sentence the women of this state to another twenty years of oppression.
A vote “yes” for the constitutional convention is not meant to simply protect the Roe V. Wade decision. What is truly at stake in protecting this right is the greater message within a woman’s right to choose. It is the fundamental, most basic right of a human to determine what can and cannot happen to their body and mind. A woman’s right to choose is connected to all human rights — the right to equality, the right to be free from discrimination, freedom from degrading treatment, the right to work, the right to education, the right to be free from sexual abuse. If we allow this right to be withheld from us, there is no stopping what other rights are taken away from any citizen, not just in New York and not just from women. Allowing this right to be taken or diluted in any way or form is tantamount to the dissolution of the American promise.
It is reductive, even sinister, for opponents of this right to simplify this fight to an isolated question of the right to choose and to profligate taxpayer money on a cause that would strip citizens of this intrinsic autonomy. If we lose the right to choose, all citizens, but especially women and even more so women of color, will only inevitably continue to suffer from increasing lack of impunity.
It is urgent that you publicly support the vote for yes, Governor Cuomo. During this dark political climate, New York has the unique chance to set the path forward for every state to protect its citizens. Help the people of New York set an example for the nation and ensure for once and for all that women are not second class citizens and deserve full autonomy over their bodies and reproductive care.
Board of Forward March NY