All the Bases
a surprising turn of events last Tuesday (Feb. 5), the New
York state Senate voted 48-8 for a women’s health bill that
would require health insurers to provide coverage for birth
control. The vote has infuriated Catholic organizations across
the state, but has thrilled family-planning advocates.
are certainly very pleased that the Senate has taken this
big step toward bringing this bill closer to becoming a law,”
said Blue Carreker, the director of public relations for Upper
Hudson Planned Parenthood. “We realize that took a posture
of compromise on the part of many senators who have differing
opinions on the legislation.”
For the past four years, the Senate’s version of the bill
included a “conscience clause,” which exempted Catholic organizations,
including churches, universities and schools, from providing
coverage for contraceptives for their employees. But last
week’s bill allows only religious employers whose employees
share the same religious beliefs to opt out of providing the
coverage; the exemption would apply primarily to churches.
is derogatorily known in Catholic circles as the ‘pastor and
housekeeper exemption’ because that is about all that it protects,”
said Dennis Poust, associate director of communications for
the New York State Catholic Conference. “We are disappointed.
We feel that the Senate abandoned us on this and went back
on their word.”
Many view this sudden change of heart as a strategic political
move by the Republican-controlled Senate to maintain a seat
in a liberal Manhattan Senate district. Republican Assemblyman
John Ravitz (R-L-I-Manhattan) is running this week in a special
election to replace retired Sen. Roy Goodman (R-L-Manhattan).
Poust, who insists that his organization only wants an exemption
on the contraceptive mandate, said that the group will consider
legal action if Gov. George Pataki signs the bill into law.
The state government in California was sued two years ago
by Sacramento Catholic Charities for passing a law almost
identical to the bill passed last week by the Senate. The
California suit is still pending.
that the Catholic Church has a historic moral opposition to
contraception, it’s a violation of our faith to provide it
to our employees,” said Poust.
But whether or not this bill will make it to the governor’s
desk any time soon is still unclear.
The Assembly bill goes further than the Senate’s: It would
eliminate co-payments for breast and cervical cancer screening
and osteoporosis screening, in addition to requiring coverage
of contraception; also, the Assembly would like to require
all organizations—including churches—to pay for contraception
coverage. But the Senate is refusing to meet with Assembly
leaders to work out a compromise on the two bills.
we would have preferred the Senate go all the way and eliminate
deductibles and eliminate co-pays,” said Carreker, “this is
a major step forward, and we really applaud them for taking
it. So let’s just finish it.”
by Leif Zurmuhlen
came out dressed as cleaning people with rubber gloves, plastic
aprons and painter’s hats. They carried signs attached to
brooms and mops that read: “Clean up your act,” “Your dirty
money stinks,” and “Enron proves the need for Clean Money,
Clean Elections”; and they chanted “Government for sale, $1,000
This was the scene outside of two $1,000-a-head fund-raisers
taking place in Albany and Troy on Monday night. While politicians
were inside rubbing elbows with possible donors, protesters
were outside calling for campaign-finance reform.
The demonstrators first appeared in front of the Albany Crowne
Plaza, where Senate Republicans held a fund-raising event;
the group then reconvened at Franklin Plaza in Troy, where
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-L-Manhattan) was hosting
his own fund-raiser.
are here to tell them it’s time to clean up the whole corruption
morass,” said Joe Seeman, chair of the Alliance for Democracy’s
Capital District chapter. “We can’t get rid of the Enron scandal
until we drain the entire swamp of the corruption, that of
legalized bribery that goes on everyday.”
John Bartholomew, clean elections coordinator for Citizen
Action of New York, said that under clean money/clean elections
reform, candidates who agree to limit campaign spending and
refuse private money would receive equal amounts of public
funds to run for office.
cost of campaigning has become outrageous, and shuts out many
good candidates from running for office,” said Bartholomew.
“Those who run pay more attention to wealthy special-interest
donors than they do to voters.”
by Teri Currie
Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day was recognized
last Thursday (Feb. 7) at the Living Word Tabernacle Church
in Albany. AIDS service providers and representatives from
local churches and community agencies gathered to speak about
the alarming infection rates of HIV and AIDS among African-Americans.
Speakers also encouraged individuals to get tested for HIV
and AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that almost
60 percent of all new HIV infections are occurring among people