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Anti-Choice Censorship in the NY State Senate

Anti-Choice Censorship in the NY State Senate

The New York State Senate sparked a controversy last week when it censored a resolution celebrating “Reproductive Rights and Justice Week” to remove terms such as contraception and reproductive rights and renamed the week “Women’s Health Week.”  In response, Honey Heller and Rabbi Jennifer Jaech, Co-Chairs of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, sent the following letter to all New York State Senators on Jan. 23 (an excerpt from the letter also appeared in the New York Daily News):

On behalf of the Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV), an organization that works on behalf of the 100,000 families who belong to the more than one hundred Reform Jewish congregations in New York State, we wish to express our indignation over recent developments in Albany concerning women's reproductive rights. It has been reported that certain members of the New York State Senate not only refused to stand up for reproductive rights for all New Yorkers, but went further and banished any reference to reproductive health from a resolution to declare next week "Reproductive Rights and Justice Week" in honor of the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Certain members of the Senate shifted the focus of the resolution to women’s health, and deleted key language in the resolution regarding support for prenatal care, pregnancy support, reproductive rights, contraception, sexuality and abortion.

RJV has always been particularly proud of New York's long tradition of supporting reproductive rights, even before the passage of Roe. When New York State legalized abortion in 1970, it was because Senator George Michaels was moved by pleas from his son, a rabbinical student, to stand up for women's rights because it was the only just thing to do. Our Reform Movement believes that a woman should make personal decisions about reproductive health without governmental interference; that constitutes justice. That impetus toward justice is what motivates us as Reform Jews, directs the policies of our organization, and is what has always made New York unique.

While this resolution may not have much impact, it has wider implications for the Reproductive Health Act, a critical bill that will protect reproductive rights in New York from erosion on the federal level and has the potential to impact women's lives in New York. The Reproductive Health Act will update our 42-year old law, provide a health exception, and ensure that women can access abortion if and when they need to. The inability to pass such a resolution does not bode well for legislation that is supported by 75% of New Yorkers.

RJV wants to remind you as a member of the Senate: Those of us who support reproductive rights come from all parties, all age groups, all regions of the state, and a broad range of faith communities. Please show the courage that Senator Michaels showed in 1970 and support women's reproductive rights by supporting the Reproductive Health Act.

For more on reproductive rights in New York State, please visit RJV's issue page.

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