Tuesday, Jun 25th

NYCLU Director Says Our Democracy is at Risk

Luncheon6Donna Lieberman of the NYCLUOn June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a piece of legislation that has made abortion a federal right in the United States for the past 50 years. Several states, such as Texas, Florida, and Alabama, have moved to restrict or ban abortion altogether, intensifying political divisions across the country.

The right to an abortion along with equal rights and civil liberties was the subject of the Scarsdale League of Women Voters Annual Spring Luncheon Program on May 5, when Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) was the key-note speaker.

At the League’s annual meeting, held prior to the lunch, Heedan Chung and Jessica Zellner were elected to serve as the League’s co-Presidents, following Alissa Baum who has reached the end of her term. In the audience were many community leaders including State Assemblymember Amy Paulin, State Senator Shelley Mayer, Ben Boykin from the County Board of Legislators, Village Trustees Sameer Ahuja and Karen Brew and many of the past presidents of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale. Luncheon3Jessica Zellner, Leah Dembitzer and Heedan Chung

Lieberman delivered an eloquent and powerful message about the state of democracy and equal rights from the perspective of the New York Civil Liberties Union whose mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles and values detailed in the Bill of Rights, the US constitution, and the New York Constitution. As the executive director of the NYCLU, Lieberman has protected the right to counsel, reformed stop and frisk and solitary confinement, repealed the 50a secrecy law, and expanded abortion rights, among many other numerous accomplishments.

In her speech at the Annual Spring Luncheon, she identified threats to democracy, citing:

  1. Gerrymandering of Congressional districts and state districts
  2. Ethical questions about the conduct of Supreme Court justices
  3. Veto-proof majorities held by the Republicans in Mississippi and Wisconsin.
  4. The appointment rather than the election of judges in Mississippi.
  5. A disconnect between the will of the populace and the politics of their elected officials due to gerrymandering.

Post Dobbs, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged abortion bans in several states and succeeded in six states, including Arizona, Iowa, Utah, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The organization is continuing litigation in states such as Texas, where an abortion ban is in full effect, and Florida, where an abortion ban is pending resolution.

Luncheon5Dana Matsushita, Nancy Michaels and Erika RublinIn the upcoming 2024 election, Lieberman claims that abortion is expressly on the ballot and encourages New York citizens to get out and vote. She urges that “We need to strengthen the right of reproductive freedom here in New York, because New York needs to be a beacon… [and] an access state, [where] the right is protected for everybody. And not just in the abstract, but in reality.”

So far, New York has enhanced funding streams for abortion and confidentiality protections for abortion care insurance coverage, ensured that homeless and runaway youth can consent to healthcare on their own, and allows Medicaid to over abortion services. However, Lieberman identified several steps that the state can take to improve abortion protection, care, and access—enhancing Medicaid rates for medicinal abortions and other funding streams, giving young people who can give consent to an abortion the ability to do so, and above all, passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).Luncheon1Alissa Baum and Amy Paulin

According to Lieberman, “In November, 2024, New Yorkers will be able to demand the lasting protections of a constitutional amendment that would prohibit discrimination against groups who have been historically targeted, including those with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, people of color, immigrants, women, and pregnant people.” She urges that the codification of the ERA into our state constitution is essential because it’s incredibly difficult to modify and would establish New York as a state that respects the rights of women and minorities.

Throughout her speech, Lieberman instilled a sense of hope for the future while highlighting what can be improved through legislation and voting. She acknowledged that although it’s hard not to be scared and frustrated when confronted with the current political polarization, young people should be optimistic and tenacious in advocating for civil liberties and civil rights.

Luncheon2Janice Starr and Karen Brew

Luncheon4Anne Lyons

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