Something to look for on your ballots

By Branwyn Wilkinson

Opinion Contributor

Have you heard? Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed an amendment to the New York State constitution that would protect the rights established by Roe v. Wade. If the proposal goes into law, reproductive rights of women will be protected in New York State regardless of what happens in the rest of the country.

This proposal is only the latest in a long list of important actions Governor Cuomo has taken to protect and support women’s rights. Already in his term, he has signed legislation to combat sexual assault on college campuses, established the most comprehensive paid family leave program in the U.S., and more. Now, he is leading the charge against VP Mike Pence’s promise to overturn Roe v. Wade; New York is the first state to propose putting the decision into law at the state level.

The proposed amendment extends far beyond just ensuring access to abortion. It also ensures access to contraceptives and protects other reproductive health related services, such as Planned Parenthood. In short, it aims to protect all the key services for reproductive health, a topic that has recently been heavy on the mind’s of women across the country.

Safe and accessible reproductive health services are a key issue for women because pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, impacts all other areas of our health. That’s why services like Planned Parenthood are so important. They provide contraceptives as well as education about safe sex. Not to mention, millions of U.S. women rely on them for basic health procedures like breast exams and STD testing, which they provide at a reduced cost. Contrary to popular belief, abortions are just one of the services they provide.

And those are important, too. I understand the complex ethical issues surrounding abortion. I’ve had long discussions with pro-lifers and understand the points they make. I personally am still pro-choice, though, because pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. It simply means recognizing a woman’s right to make a choice about her body. My body is pro-life. But I recognize that I am not, and no one else is, able to make that decision for another person.

The decision to abort is never made lightly. It is not a method of contraceptive. It is an option that needs to exist for when there is no other option, like in cases of rape, when a pregnancy could prolong and make harder the healing process after an extreme violation. Or when a mother would not survive carrying the child to term.

Roe v. Wade was decided based on the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects citizens against laws that undermine their privileges, or deny life, liberty, and all that good stuff. Access to abortion falls under that right to liberty. Liberty, in its basic definition, means freedom from control. Therefore, the government shouldn’t control our bodies.

The Fourteenth Amendment also holds that the state can’t deny equal protection of law to any citizen. Women are citizens (now), so we can’t be denied liberty because of our gender.

Roe v. Wade checks out, but I won’t underestimate the power of our current administration to overturn it if they really want to. That’s why Gov. Cuomo’s proposition is so important. It would help women in New York state, of course. It would also ensure that women outside of the state had access to legal abortion somewhere in the United States.

It makes me proud to live in this state, which has been slow to implement necessary social change in the past, but never in this particular area. Abortion was legal in New York three years before the Roe v. Wade case. The fight for women’s rights started here, and it is reassuring to see they still matter more than 50 years later.

The earliest Cuomo’s proposal would be put to a vote is 2019. If there’s one thing this election taught us, it’s the difference your vote can make. So I know that 2019 is a while from now, but pay attention to your ballots. We’re a democracy, so it’s up to us as citizens to make a difference for the best for our country.



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