My Women’s Rights Platform

Despite the knowledge I’ve accumulated as a journalist and cynical New Yorker, I’ve learned in the past few weeks just how naive my conception of the world has been. In part that was because of my own life experiences, living with the privilege of being someone who has never been sexually harassed, raped, or demeaned. I knew, intellectually, sexual harassment was a problem, but always assumed most people knew better. Mad Men was over. We had evolved.

Of course that isn’t the case. I don’t have to recount for you the disturbing revelations, one after another, that have rocked just about every industry imaginable over the last month. Predators like Harvey Weinstein deserve to suffer for what they have done. And the people who enabled and tolerated his behavior — the many actors, producers, and friends who shrugged it off — deserve to be punished too.

When I put together my women’s rights platform for my State Senate campaign, I knew I had to address this. The culture in politics is no less misogynistic than the entertainment culture. Powerful people, particularly men, too often abuse their positions, instilling fear and ruining lives. We have to do much better.

Below, in full, is my platform. If you feel an issue went unaddressed or have a critique, feel free to email me. I am always looking to improve.

Enact Universal Health Care

Health care is a human right, and providing universal health care is a feminist issue. Bringing Medicare for All to New York will especially benefit women and people of color and will combat the inequities suffered by low-income women. Women pay more for their health care, they’re less likely to have a job that provides health care, and they earn less than men, making them less able to afford their health care.

The New York Health Act, which is stalled in the Republican-controlled State Senate, would guarantee free health care to every New Yorker, including essential reproductive health services like contraception and abortion. I will also fight to guarantee it covers hormonal therapy, sexual reassignment surgery, and all sexual health services to ensure no New Yorker has to pay more because of their sexual identity or orientation. Private insurance companies would not be allowed to discriminate against New Yorkers any longer. True justice for women can’t be achieved without access to free healthcare. We must pass the New York Health Act and make Medicare for All a reality in our state.

Institute a Statewide Ban on Asking for Salary History

New York City recently banned employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history. This was a major milestone in the fight for pay equity. Women and people of color, who routinely earn far less than white men in the workplace, are penalized for their past employers’ discriminatory decisions. Employers perpetuate past inequities and make hiring decisions and set pay rates based on discriminatory data. Public Advocate Letitia James, who sponsored the legislation, should be commended for her tireless advocacy.

Now we must take this policy statewide. There is no reason women and people of color in other cities across the state must suffer this form of gender and racial discrimination. I will fight for a statewide ban on inquiries about salary history and help to make all of New York a fairer, more equitable place.

Pass the Reproductive Health Act Into Law and Stand Up to Trump Republicans

Reproductive rights in New York are being threatened by President Donald Trump and other Republican, anti-choice extremists in Washington — making it more important than ever to stand with Planned Parenthood, fight for a woman’s right to choose, and pass the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) into law as soon as possible. The RHA, which has been repeatedly blocked by Republicans in the State Senate, would protect fundamental reproductive rights by making the right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade part of New York law. This crucial and commonsense step forward would safeguard New Yorkers in the event of federal attempts — now seemingly inevitable — to restrict abortion access. Last updated in 1970, our state’s law on abortion falls woefully short both of constitutional protections established in 1973 and does not reflect current medical practices. I would also seek to codify into law the regulator action taken by the state government in January that guaranteed contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles regardless of how Donald Trump tries to gut the Affordable Care Act.

Pass the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) Into Law

In many parts of New York State, it is permissible to discriminate based on gender identity because of our outdated and immoral laws. I will fight to pass GENDA as soon as possible. GENDA would outlaw discrimination against transgender persons in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit. GENDA would do this by adding gender identity and expression as protected classes under existing state human rights law. Trans New Yorkers are especially vulnerable without GENDA. Now more than ever, with a bigoted president and an empowered Republican Party, New York must be a haven for anyone who faces discrimination.

Speak Out Against Sexual Harassment — No Matter the Circumstances

There is no denying that women face unacceptable sexual harassment in workplaces throughout New York and across the nation, whether it is at large corporations, media conglomerates or in the halls of government — including the New York State Legislature. It’s time for that to end — and it’s time for men to stop pretending they somehow don’t know what’s going on. As more women speak out every day to tell their stories, men have a responsibility to step up and call out any colleagues — including friends — who are engaging in unacceptable behavior.

I am making a clear and simple pledge — if I am elected to serve in the State Senate and sees workplace harassment in the Legislature, I will (with consent of the victim or victims) call it out. Whether the harasser is a lawmaker, a staffer or anyone else, I will not be silent. I will not protect men in power from being held responsible for unacceptable, sexist behavior. And if Albany power brokers don’t like that, I don’t really care.

Ban Revenge Porn

For years, legislation banning revenge porn has languished in Albany. This is inexcusable. I would prioritize passing legislation that brings New York in line with many others states that have recognized the urgent need to address this serious problem. The bill would criminalize the nonconsensual disclosure of sexually graphic images. Targets of revenge porn are overwhelmingly women. Right now, these women have no recourse, beyond suing in civil court, if someone makes their images public without permission. Many women find their career prospects and personal lives ruined. They are endlessly harassed and demeaned. The State Legislature must finally act to address this situation.

Institute a “Baby Box” Program to Help New Mothers and Protect Infants

We must do everything we can to decrease shockingly high infant mortality rates in New York City and across the state. In many countries, every pregnant woman is gifted with a box of essentials, including diapers, a bath towel, a thermometer, and a picture book. Once the items are removed, the box can be used as a bassinet. Finland, where the program was begun more than a half-century ago, has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

A free baby box program in New York would go a long way toward aiding new mothers in the crucial first months of childrearing. A baby-box program would also help to combat sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Ohio, New Jersey, and Alabama already offer baby boxes to parents of all newborns, in exchange for completing online educational materials about safe sleep. SIDS has sadly been on the uptick nationwide. If New York truly wants to be a progressive leader, a statewide baby box program is essential.

Coupled with this program, however, should be the right to free prenatal and postnatal care for all women in New York State. The State must be legally obligated to provide maternity and child health clinics. We need a robust home-visiting program for women after birth.

https://medium.com/@RossBarkan/my-womens-rights-platform-8aa06ecca3d7