By Jeremy Lopez
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently proposed the Women’s Equality Agenda, a 10-point initiative designed to reduce discrimination against women. The agenda, endorsed by more than 500 religious, women’s, labor, health care, social justice and business groups, is designed to break down gender-based barriers of inequality.
As a pastor to women and families, I am witness to women receiving unfair treatment at work, over wages and benefits, as well as in housing, with credit and lending, and when seeking health care. Clergy and religious leaders from a wide spectrum of faiths and communities contribute our moral and spiritual support to the enactment of the Women’s Equality Agenda.
When enacted, women will be in a better position to receive equal pay for equal work, be protected from sexual harassment and be shielded from housing discrimination. The agenda also ensures that women receive abortion protections that reflect federal law and current medical practice, a provision that has been widely misrepresented by abortion opponents.
First of all, a recent Siena College Poll (nywomensequality.org/newsroom)shows that 80 percent of New Yorkers – including people of faith – overwhelmingly support updating state law to protect women’s reproductive health decisions. Yes, a majority of Jews, Catholics and Protestants agree that New York should enact a law “protecting reproductive freedom for women, ensuring a woman’s right to make private health care decisions regarding pregnancy.”
Nevertheless, religious opponents have been forceful in criticism that has no basis in the facts. These groups have long opposed women’s equality. As a member of the Clergy Advisory Board of Concerned Clergy for Choice, I want all our communities to understand that a wide spectrum of religious leaders and groups affirm that women and men are equal in God’s eyes.
I believe strongly that a woman should have the freedom, when it comes to her health, to follow her conscience and beliefs in consultation with her doctor, family, spiritual leader and whoever else she decides to talk to. Politicians do not belong in this conversation.
For nearly half a century, my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, has supported freedom of choice for women with regard to pregnancy and health. As a Christian church, we affirm the sacredness of all human life, and believe “that within the context of the concern for sacredness of individual lives, as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, God calls us when making choices, especially as these relate to abortion, to act faithfully.” This includes being faithful in our concern for the life and health of women.
I urge lawmakers to pass the Women’s Equality Agenda this session.
The Rev. Jeremy Lopez is pastor at Salem United Church of Christ in the City of Tonawanda.