A record high number of states are now governed solely by a one-party majority – which can then generally pass whatever legislation it likes. People don’t typically pay attention to state legislative races, and gerrymandered districts enable less-informed voters to pull the straight ticket and vote in all members of one party. The results can be hilarious… and terrifying. My State Did What?! focuses on the bipartisan foibles of state government, especially around corruption, womens’ health and reproductive rights, and LGBT issues.
Today on ‘My State Did What?!’, we focus on this state, New York, which is governed entirely by Democrats. Well not entirely. Even though 32 Democrats were elected to the state Senate last fall, an Albany pissing contest led 5 Democrats to defect and vote to power-share between the Republicans and a group called the “Independent Democrats.” Go figure.
But New York State Republicans act more like Democrats anyway – the GOP controlled Senate passed gay marriage last year, and this year passed new gun control regulations and has agreed to vote on raising the minimum wage. So let’s say New York is an honorary Democrat-controlled state (but you already knew that).
Governor Andrew Cuomo, bucking the national tide of state-level abortion laws (some of which, like the ridiculous New Mexico rape-babies-belong-to-the-state bill, have been profiled here), has decided to introduce a plan to increase women’s access to abortions, among other gender equity provisions. The plan, previewed in his State of the State speech with its rollicking “her body, her choice” call-and-response will, according to the Gotham Gazette,”include measures to ensure women equal pay to men, tackle discrimination against women who are pregnant, strengthen laws against human trafficking and set a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace.” Additionally, the bill is set to move abortion law from criminal law to civil health law, and allow late-term abortions to save the life of the mother.
Predictably, the New York Catholic Conference has come out swinging against the new legislation, calling it “radical and far out of the mainstream.” While the plan makes relatively modest changes in abortion rights in New York, the Catholics have one thing right – any measure at the state level designed to increase women’s rights is out of the mainstream in today’s America.
Democrats take control of states and pass equal pay, protection against sexual harassment, and increased access to choice for women. Republicans take control of states and pass “don’t-say-gay” laws and laws that force doctors to vaginally probe women seeking to access their federally protected abortion rights. Last week, 28 male Republican senators voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. And Republicans wonder why women vote for Democrats.