State Senators Eric T. Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx) and Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) today received top honors from Family Planning Advocates of New York State (FPA). Schneiderman, along with Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, was the recipient of the prestigious Margaret Sanger Award. The honor is given each year by FPA to individuals of distinction in recognition of excellence and leadership in furthering reproductive health and reproductive rights for women. Senator Stewart-Cousins was the recipient of the Champion of Choice Award, recognizing her contributions to protecting reproductive health care choices, including her groundbreaking legislation, the Reproductive Health Act.
State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, who spoke at the ceremony, recognized Senators Schneiderman and Stewart-Cousins for their work on women's issues and their leadership within the Democratic conference.
"I congratulate Eric and Andrea for these very well deserved honors, but above all I congratulate the women of New York who can rest assured that the State Senate will be a body that protects women's rights and health," said Senator Smith, who also spoke about how Senators Schneiderman and Stewart-Cousins will now Chair important legislative committees and have the power to move key legislation like the Healthy Teens Act.
"Family Planning Advocates has one of the most committed body of members of any organization in New York, and I am humbled that I was considered for an honor as high as the Margaret Sanger Award," said Senator Schneiderman, the new Chairman of the Senate Codes Committee. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood.
"I know Andrea, Naomi and myself don't view these awards as an end to the task at hand-but a beginning to the work that must be done in the months and years ahead to ensure that government never acts as a barrier to women's health and wellness," Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman was honored for his long history of advocating for reproductive rights. His advocacy for women's health began in 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade ruling, when he worked at a family planning clinic in Washington, DC. Since arriving to the Senate ten years ago, Schneiderman has been an outspoken voice on the Senate floor in support of the right of women to access reproductive health care including contraception, health screenings, infertility treatment and safe, legal abortion care. In 1999, he played an important role in helping to pass the Clinic Anti-Violence Act, the first piece of pro-choice legislation passed in the state in over a decade, and was the Senate sponsor of the original bill to implement the Women's Health and Wellness Act.
"For more than twenty years, Eric Schneiderman has been a strong leader for women's rights and reproductive health," said Planned Parenthood New York City President and CEO Joan Malin. "Thanks to his tireless dedication, New York's men, women and children have better options when it comes to reproductive health. We couldn't be prouder to have Senator Schneiderman representing New York City."
Like Schneiderman, Senator Stewart-Cousins was recognized for her leadership and lifelong commitment to women's health. She is the sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in the Senate, which will protect an individual's ability to make personal and private reproductive health care decisions. Among other things, Stewart-Cousins' legislation would update New York's reproductive rights laws by removing them from state's Penal Code and inserting them into Public Health Law so that women and their doctors alone can make appropriate medical decisions while ensuring a woman's privacy. As a former Westchester County Legislator, Stewart-Cousins brought the "Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program" to Westchester County, which has become a national cornerstone of enhanced community/medical rape crisis assistance.
"Andrea Stewart-Cousins' leadership and contributions to expanding reproductive health care choices are demonstrated in all she does," said Reina Schiffrin, President/CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. "As a sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act in the Senate in 2008, Senator Stewart-Cousins recognizes how critical this legislation is to protecting an individual's ability to make personal and private reproductive health care decisions."
"In recent years, a number of attempts have been made to erode and undermine a woman's right to choose. That's why I introduced the Reproductive Health and Privacy Act," said Senator Stewart-Cousins, the new Chairwoman of the Senate's Local Governments Committee.
"Women's health remains one of my top priorities; protecting our choices is of utmost importance," concluded Stewart-Cousins. "Family Planning Advocates has been a friend, an ally, and most importantly a partner. I am honored to have been given this award and my colleagues and I remain steadfast as ever to protecting the rights of every woman."