Story by Jennifer O’Connor
A large crowd gathered on Sun., Oct. 7 at the Railroad Green in the Village of Warwick to rally with pro-choice leaders in support of women’s health and reproductive rights. Orange County Democratic Women President Willa Freiband emceed the rally. She spoke of the many rallies she organized and attended in her 25-year span when she served as Vice President of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley.
“The hardest work affecting social attitudes about women and their sexuality and reproductive rights includes women’s confidence in themselves. The message that women should be able to control their own bodies was not as easy as you might think because women had been socialized over centuries to accept a secondary status,” said Freiband.
She stated that there are women who do not support the idea that women deserve the respect given to men. She spoke about Brett Kavanaugh, who was sworn-in as Justice of the Supreme Court on Sat., Oct. 6, despite allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made against him of sexual assault that occurred in the 1980s, while they were in high school. Kavanaugh has strongly denied the allegations.
“The Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford hearing uncovered how socialization affects our attitudes today,” said Freiband. “We know that Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony was dignified. His (Kavanaugh’s) behavior was not. And had the roles been reversed, the reaction to an angry hostile woman simply would not have been tolerated.”
Echoing her disappointment in Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court was Robin Chappelle Golston, President of Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes PAC, who also spoke at the rally.
“They might have won this battle but we are going to win the war,” said Golston, who then received cheers and applause from the crowd. “We are on the right side of justice and we are supporting the people that need it.”
In reference to those that have been victims of abuse and sexual violence, Golston stated, “We believe in you. We support you. And we will always be there with you. I am hoping that for young women especially that they’ll know that this behavior is not okay. It’s not proper. You have a right to speak up and to say no. Hopefully the next generation will not have to suffer silently the way many have in past generations.”
Golston talked about the importance of the upcoming election in November in which NYS Senator John Bonacic is not seeking re-election. The race for Bonacic’s seat in the State Senate’s 42nd district is between Republican Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt and Democrat Rosendale Town Councilwoman Jen Metzger.
“I came here to support Jen Metzger. She has been very active on our issues,” said Golston. “Reproductive health and rights are not controversial. It’s just basic human rights. Unfortunately, we have a senate that doesn’t see it that way. Even commonsense legislation about contraception is too controversial. And we are not going to take that anymore. So now we are going to flip it and bring Jen into the senate so she can be the leader that she’s meant to be.”
NYS Senator Liz Krueger added, “We have an enormous ability to pass laws and constitutional amendments but not unless we change who controls the State Senate. We are one Democratic vote away from being able to pass the Reproductive Health Act.”
Metzger then spoke and told the audience that she has the deepest respect for people that stand up and share their stories pertaining to sexual assault and misconduct. She shared her own experience saying that she didn’t tell anyone at the time because she didn’t know how.
“When the fundamental boundary between your body and other people is invaded, it is incredibly disruptive. Your understanding of what it means to be safe is disrupted and is incredibly harmful,” said Metzger. “If you are young as I was and you are still forming your understanding of what the world is like you can carry that with you for a long time.”
Metzger continued that there is a fundamental problem with the government at all levels when only a quarter of representatives in Congress are women.
“Policies and laws governing our rights, our freedoms, and our bodies are being decided with hardly any women in the room. Our voices are not heard. We have the power to build a fire wall here in New York against the Federal assault on women’s rights. We have a power that the federal government can’t take away. And that is our power to vote. In 30 days, we can show up at the polls and vote for a New York that stands up for us – for our rights and our freedoms,” said Metzger.
Another speaker stressing the importance of voting in the General Election on Tues., Nov. 6 was Melissa Martens, the campaign manager for her husband, Scott Martens, who is the Democratic candidate running against Republican Karl Brabenec for NYS Assembly in the 98th district.
To view videos of some of the speeches visit the Warwick Valley Dispatch YouTube channel by clicking on the “WVD Videos” on the website – www.wvdispatch.com.