Elected officials lead rally for women’s rights
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Mar 28, 2017 | 1719 views | 0 0 comments | 173 173 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Women's Rally
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For the past five years, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz has hosted an annual Women’s History Month Celebration to honor local women involved in fields such as education, politics and business.

This year, however, she wanted to honor all women through a Rally for Women’s Rights.

The rally, held at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills on Sunday, emphasized the achievements made by women while still acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead, such as reproductive rights, representation in government and immigration concerns.

Congresswoman Grace Meng, who had “tears of relief” after Congress failed to pass the GOP health care bill last week, argued that President Donald Trump could not uphold the promises made in the early days of his presidency, specifically when he promised to be a president for all people.

She was disappointed in his immigration plans, which could see families being split apart.

“His great plan for immigration is to separate children and parents at the border to deter them from coming to America,” Meng said. “Literally, he told us that in caucus.

“They don’t understand that they’ve been going through pretty rough times and these children are already being exploited back home and that’s why they are seeking refuge in our country,” she added.

Koslowitz added that Trump does not have the right to tell women what to do with their bodies. She recalled two common measures women would endure if they had an unplanned pregnancy in the past.

“They would move in with a relative in another state, gone from their family and friends because they were too ashamed,” Koslowitz said. “I remember some people getting abortions in alleys and some of them not coming out. We’re not going to let that happen again.”

When Borough President Melinda Katz was in the Assembly 24 years ago, she passed the first law in the country to give direct access to women for gynecological services so they didn’t have to go to a primary care doctor.

“Men and women all over the country are getting the health care they need and to go back on that is not an option these days,” Katz said, adding the decision in Roe v. Wade “must stay.”

Danielle Castaldi-Micca, director of Political and Government Affairs at the National Institute of Reproductive Health, used the rally as an opportunity to reach out to members of the State Senate.

She called on them to be champions of reproductive health.

In 1970, New York State legalized abortion, three years prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. However, the bill hasn’t been updated since, prompting Castaldi-Micca to ask rally goers to contact Majority Leader John Flanagan about updating the bill.

“We need a vote on the Reproductive Health Act to make sure that no matter what happens in Washington folks in New York have access to reproductive health care,” Castaldi-Micca said.

She also called on the State Senate to pass the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would give access to contraception care for New Yorkers.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who was the first woman in Queens elected to the State Senate, urged rally goers to get involved with local politics.

Not only is she still the only woman from Queens in the State Senate, but there are only 11 female State Senators out of 63.

Forest Hills residents Mindy and Bayla Blackstock attended the rally for an important mother-daughter experience. It’s the second rally they’ve ever attended, with the first being the Queens Solidarity Rally last month.

“It’s all about local level politics and we all have the right to fight back against sexism, discrimination, rape culture,” Mindy said.

Representatives from Planned Parenthood spoke at the rally, unfazed by the GOP’s disapproval. Hannah Simon, sexuality educator at Planned Parenthood, explained that the organization has helped teenagers and women with a spectrum of sexual and reproductive services.

The services include birth control, STI testing, medical and surgical abortion, HIV testing and treatment, and breast exams. Last year, the organization expanded its services to include transgender hormone therapy and vasectomy.

With five centers across the five boroughs, Planned Parenthood has served 60,000 patients. In 2016, they opened the Diane L. Max Health Center in Long Island City, which received 15,000 patient visits over the course of the year.

According to Meng, 60 percent of women use Planned Parenthood as their primary provider.

“We provide care no matter what, regardless of immigration status, income and ability to pay,” Simon said. “Even in the face of heightened federal threats, we won’t back down.”
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