by Joelle Wyser-Pratte
Throughout the course of human history, in the face of essential moral dilemmas, there have always been the privileged and powerful fighting for the status quo – fighting to preserve injustice. Today, in the fight for women’s equality, the face of injustice is the State Senate Republican Conference.
The columnist Nicholas Kristof has identified three distinct moral challenges within to American history and culture. In the 19th century, we fought to end slavery. In the 20th century, we fought to defeat totalitarianism.
And, he wrote, in the 21st century, the moral challenge over our time will be the fight to overcome gender inequality.
Even in the United States, the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen, we see unconscionable levels of sex trafficking. Women are paid less than men for the same type of work. And, in perhaps the most politically contentious issue in our political debate, women lack the complete ability to make our own health decisions.
I am proud to live in New York, a state with a long tradition of reform and activism for women’s rights, dating back to the Declaration of Sentiments written at the convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. But when we consider the state of affairs in present day New York – where not all women are legally recognized in their full and equal potential, and where a woman with a non-viable pregnancy is forced to wait until her own life is threatened in order to terminate a pregnancy – it pains me to admit that it’s far past time our government catches up to the conclusion that our society so readily welcomes.
With the strong and admirable leadership of Governor Cuomo, the Women’s Equality Act can use the power of the law to enforce the principles many of us naively assume were already in place. Among other things, the legislation includes provisions to ensure equal pay for equal work; codifies into state law the reproductive rights afforded by Roe v. Wade forty years ago; establishes protections for women and girls who fall victim to human trafficking; and ends discrimination against victims of domestic violence.
Legally and morally, this legislation is a no-brainer. But in an upsetting and disturbing twist, some in Albany believe that opposing these commonsense and fundamental principles of modern life has some political upside.
Today, the Senate GOP joins the ranks of individuals who have fought to keep injustice in our society. Not only do they oppose the legislation which is their right, but are also threatening to prevent the Senate from voting on the bill. How can this be called democracy when one man can control what is open to vote. 84 percent of New Yorker state residents regardless of political party are pro choice voters. The conservatives have spent their time attacking the bill by spreading lies and total propaganda about the section of the bill relating to reproductive rights. Despite both their support for the remaining nine planks of the bill, and the overwhelming public support for the abortion-related provision that simply brings us in line with Roe V Wade. The real reason is that if Roe v Wade is ever overturned, we will revert to abortion as a crime.
The result is that New York state government is being hijacked by a handful of politicians who believe that they understand the law better than the United States Supreme Court, and that their own opinions outweigh 84% of the public.
Ultimately, their political strategy depends on denying the women of New York the respect and dignity of allowing an up-or-down vote. Try as they might to evade and conceal their opposition, Conservatives have sent a loud and clear message to the women of New York. That message? They believe that human trafficking is morally acceptable; that holding employers accountable for equal work for equal pay is not a priority; that women who are sexually harassed at work should have no legal recourse; that it’s tolerable to discriminate against victims of domestic violence. In Senate Conservatives’ worldview, it’s acceptable for women to be paid less, and protected less, than men.
But the fight for women’s equality is a moral challenge, not merely a political strategy. The women of New York cannot, and will not, allow the Republicans to tell our daughters that they know what’s best. We will not remain quiet, and let men in Albany prevent us from enjoying equal protection under the law.
We are fighting for the fundamental human right – the inalienable right – of equality for all, equality for ourselves, for our sisters, for our daughters, and for our granddaughters. The Women’s Equality Act is the right thing to do, and we will not rest until it is law, all ten points of it…
About the Writer
Joelle Wyser-Pratte, is the co-founder of The Ounavarra Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to supporting educational causes throughout the world. Wyser-Pratte also co-found Ounavarra Capital LLC to help other select alternative managers grow their businesses and investor bases. Prior to the securities business, Joelle began her career in journalism with International Media Partners and NBC Television in Florida. Joelle graduated from Tufts University, and holds Series 7 and 63 registrations with FINRA.