Friday, January 16, 2009

Kicking the Year off Right in Albany!

On Monday, January 12, the first day of the new legislative session, over 300 advocates gathered in Albany to proclaim "Women's Health Matters!" to our legislators and state officials. Of course, Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region was there with a bus full of Rochester and Syracuse advocates to join in the celebration and the fight. We gathered in the Well, a central location in the Legislative Office Building where we knew we'd get lots of attention.

The new President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates, Tracey Brooks, kicked off the morning rally. There was an awards presentation honoring our courageous advocates in the NYS legislature. The Margaret Sanger Award was presented to Senator Eric Schneiderman and Assemblymember Naomi Rivera and the Champion of Choice Award was given to Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

There were many exciting speakers, including Assembly Speaker, Assemblymember Sheldon Silver; NYS Commissioner of Health, Dr. Richard Daines; NYS Comptroller, Thomas
DiNapoli; Senate Majority Leader, Senator Malcolm Smith; and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice, Mylan Denerstein. The excitement in the air was palpable and it was clear that 2009 would be a year of great hope and progress in Albany!

I had the honor of introducing the keynote speaker, a woman I have immense admiration for, 23-year-old sexual education activist, feminist, and youth empowerment organizer, Shelby Knox. Shelby spoke eloquently about her seven year fight for comprehensive sex ed, literally coming to tears when she predicted that in 2009, the Healthy Teens Act will finally become law in New York.

After the rally in the Well, advocates scattered throughout the Legislative Office Building and Capitol to meet with legislators. Our group met with twenty-one elected officials from the Rochester/Syracuse region, advocating for the Healthy Teens Act, Reproductive Health Act, and investing funding in family planning services. When the bus rolled into Rochester for the last drop-off at 7:00 PM, we were tired, but we knew our actions made a difference.

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