Big wins by Democrats across the board in New York State on Nov. 6 signal the dawn of a new era in women’s reproductive rights, according to a leading member of Planned Parenthood, who said that Southwest Brooklyn Democrats Andrew Gounardes and Max Rose will be a big part of the new political landscape.
Christina Chang, chief external affairs officer at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC), said that both Rose, who defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan in the 11th Congressional District, and Gounardes, who appears to have beaten GOP state Sen. Martin Golden in the 22nd Senate District, campaigned on a platform of protecting abortion rights and easing access to contraception.
“We are thrilled to see Andrew Gounardes take New York’s 22nd District. He has been a real champion of women’s reproductive rights. He sees it is as being connected to economic opportunity for women. We look forward to working with him,” Chang told this newspaper in a phone interview.
At press time, Golden had not conceded the race.
“And with Max Rose’s victory, we are sending a stronger New York delegation to Congress,” Chang added.
Donovan is currently the lone Republican in New York City’s congressional delegation.
Planned Parenthood NYC Votes PAC, the political arm of the PPNYC, endorsed both Rose and Gounardes.
“After years of blocking essential legislation and the ongoing attacks on our communities, we now have the leaders in place who will stand up for New Yorkers’ values,” Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood NYC Votes PAC, said in a statement.
The victory of a pro-choice candidate like Rose is important on many levels, according to Chang.
“With Democrats in control of the House, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act is off the table,” Chang said, adding that Rose is likely to hold the line against attempts by the Trump administration to chip away at the ACA. “His being in Congress will help ward off attacks,” she said.
Chang said the efforts to weaken the ACA include expanding religious exemptions for employers who do not wish to pay for insurance for workers seeking contraception and a new directive that places bureaucratic obstacles in the way of insurance companies seeking to cover abortions.
“More than one million women could lose insurance coverage for abortions,” she told this newspaper.
At the state level, Gounardes could do much to help safeguard women’s reproductive rights, Chang predicted.
On the campaign trail and in debates, Gounardes stated his strong support for the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), a bill that would codify abortion rights in New York State and protect a woman’s right to choose in the event the new conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.
“The RHA has been languishing for years. Republicans in the Senate would not bring it to the floor for a vote, not even a debate” Chang said.
Democratic majorities in both the State Senate and State Assembly could move the RHA forward.
New York State legalized abortion in 1970, three years ahead of Roe vs. Wade. But the RHA would extend the protections afforded to women in the landmark Supreme Court decision, according to Chang.
“It would take abortion out of the state’s penal code and put it in the health code. This has huge implications. The RHA would mean that if we do see a weakening at the federal level, women in New York would still be protected,” Chang said.
Supporters of reproductive rights are breaking a sigh of relief after the election.
“We now have a New York State Senate that will work to expand access to sexual and reproductive health care for all New Yorkers, and finally be a true leader and example against the cruel and destructive policies and attacks coming from Washington,” McQuade stated.