Two years ago I walked into a fund-raiser for Planned Parenthood New York City at a cream-colored midtown apartment filled with fresh flowers. It was a scene out of a Nancy Meyers movie: educated, professional women and men in comfortable chic clothes with sharp eyewear.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the star attraction, but I was curious to see how she’d be received. Earlier in the week Quinn had shelved the veto-proof paid-family-leave act, claiming that the measure would be too burdensome on small businesses.
As the press observed, the move simultaneously bolstered her standing with the Bloombergistas while denying a victory to her would-be opponent Bill de Blasio, the standard-bearer of the Working Families Party, a prime backer of the bill. Almost as an afterthought, working women and low-income families, who would have benefited the most from the legislation, suffered a huge blow.
It was simple self-dealing. But now the speaker was about to confront a room full of politically active women. Surely they’d be outraged.
Quinn gave a rousing speech about reproductive rights to endless applause. That was it.
A whole two years later, Quinn finally felt the heat when last month Gloria Steinem publicly pressured her to pass the bill, which mandates paid days off for illness or to care for family members. Of course, that was after Steinem introduced her at a 500-person fund-raiser in the fall.
However soft her position may be, Steinem is on to something. In July The Atlantic featured an explosive cover story by Anne-Marie Slaughter about how even high-achieving women in the 21st century still can’t “have it all.” Why? Among other reasons Slaughter cites the lack of social infrastructure to help women manage family and professional responsibilities, e.g., paid family leave.
I was raised to believe that to make light of the fight for reproductive rights is heresy, and that the problem with young women today is that we don’t appreciate the hard-won battles our mothers fought. But my mother, a passionate pro-choice advocate, also taught me that power is taken, not given. In New York City no Democratic candidate for mayor can make it out of the primary without being pro-choice. Even Republican candidates like Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg have to be pro-choice to win the general election. And the current crop of Democratic candidates for mayor are tripping over themselves to proclaim their undying support for reproductive rights.
To read the full article at City & State click here.
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