By Bill Parry
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that he would guarantee a woman’s right to choose in New York by codifying the protections established by the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision into the state Constitution ensuring that protections remain in place in New York in the event the decision is overturned or altered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Cuomo vowed he would propose such an amendment during a Planned Parenthood Day of Action in Albany.
“As Washington seeks to limit women’s rights, we seek to protect them, and as they threaten reproductive rights, I propose a constitutional amendment to write Rose v. Wade into the New York State Constitution to prevent any attack on the right to choose,” Cuomo said. “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. Make no mistake, we will always protect the right to choose in New York.”
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) greeted many of the activists who traveled to Albany by buses provided by Planned Parenthood.
“I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood and to fight for the protection of women’s rights and access to affordable health care,” Simotas said. “As a New York legislator, I will fight to build on our rights, not tear them down and make sure our state never turns its back on families, no matter what is happening in Washington.”
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, joined more that 1,500 advocates, patients and supporters from around the state to make clear to state lawmakers that they must immediately act to safeguard women’s rights as federal action is underway to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“We know that seven in 10 Americans support Roe vs. Wade and want to see it remain the law of the land,” Richards said. “At a time when access to reproductive rights is under attack, we are grateful to champions across the nation who stand with the 2.5 million patients Planned Parenthood health centers care for with a whole range of health services, from birth control to cancer screenings to yes, safe and legal abortion. New Yorkers, like all Americans, deserve access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health care.”
Meanwhile, Secret Theatre founder Richard Mazda, the creator of the LIC Arts Open called his artists to action to defend the National Endowment for the Arts, which is also under threat of elimination by the Trump administration.
“Artists will need to come out of their garrets and their natural isolation and come together to protest this,” Mazda wrote in an e-mail to participants of the upcoming 7th LIC Arts Open in May. “If it is true that they will try to gut the NEA, this will affect NPR, Public Television and so many programs it makes me dizzy to even contemplate.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) slammed the Trump administration’s plan to cut the NEA as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“Cutting or eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities is a terrible idea that will do significant harm and absolutely no good,” Maloney said. “The NEA and the NEH represent .006 percent of our nation’s annual federal budget. Yet, these two agencies have enabled millions of people in communities all over the country to access, experience, and participate in the arts and humanities, while also generating very positive economic activity.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) expounded on the economic impact of the arts in a letter sent to President Trump last week.
“Every year, arts and culture drives $135.2 billion of economic activity, supports 4.13 million full-time jobs and generates $86.68 billion in resident household income,” Van Bramer wrote. “Local, state, and federal governments collectively invest $4 billion into arts and culture each year, and receive $22.3 billion in revenue. As a businessman, you should know that this is an exceptional return on investment.”
Van Bramer, the City Council’s majority leader and chairman of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries, threw in a history lesson as well.
“During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister suggested cutting arts spending to fund the war effort,” Van Bramer wrote. “Churchill famously responded: Then what are we fighting for?”
Van Bramer summarized, “Without art, and without culture, how much of a world leader can America truly be?”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr