Position Statement – 2015
A.6262 / S.6
A.6262/S.6 establishes creation of a pilot program allowing victims of domestic violence to remotely and electronically file Family Court family offense proceedings from a non-court based location. Overseen and implemented by the Office of Court Administration, the pilot program would allow certain parties to file a family offense petition from a designated location, as well as provide ex parte testimony audio-visually for the initial appearance. The pilot program would initially be launched in one or more local domestic violence assistance programs, such as a Family Justice Center or domestic violence organization. By making the program available to parties for whom filing in Family Court would create undue hardship or risk of harm, the bill would provide these vulnerable victims with access to court-based relief. The bill also addresses practical issues such as domestic violence advocate training, the role of Family Court, filing procedures, a timetable for the pilot and the establishment of data for evaluation. WBASNY supports this provision which would provide victims with safety or other hardships critical access to the Family Court for emergency protection and relief.
A.506 / S.7
Support with Recommendations
A.506/S.7 enables prosecutors to better build trafficking cases against child sex traffickers by eliminating the requirement that they prove coercion. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act does not require a showing of force, fraud or coercion to find perpetrators who sell children for sex guilty of trafficking. This is also in line with the international law definition of trafficking set forth in the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) (a.k.a. Palermo Protocol). Unfortunately, when our legislature passed the 2007 anti-trafficking legislation setting forth the means by which traffickers coerce their victims as the elements of the crime of trafficking, it neglected to create a separate provision to hold the traffickers of children accountable. Therefore, prosecutors in New York have to prove the means a trafficker used to sell a child for sex, which can be nearly impossible due to the increased vulnerability of children and the challenges of having them testify to details of their victimization. This bill would allow prosecutors to obtain trafficking convictions against perpetrators who have sold a child to someone else for purposes of sexual exploitation.
While A.506/S.7 also holds the buyers of children for sex to the same standard to which we hold other child sexual predators accountable, WBASNY submits that any such legislation should require proof of specific intent and knowledge that the victim is a minor. A.506/S.7 ensures that the penalties for sex and labor trafficking are commensurate with the severity of the crimes. Sex trafficking is currently a B Non-Violent Felony and this bill would make it a B Violent Felony. Since sex trafficking inherently involves rape, it should be considered violent. Labor trafficking, which is modern-day slavery, is currently a D Felony and would be increased to a B Felony. It should be noted that the Governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda, which has been endorsed by advocates around the state, calls for stiffer penalties for trafficking in persons.
In addition, A.506/S.7 improves victims’ access to services by expanding the list of those who can make referrals to include established legal and social service providers. Currently, only law enforcement can make such referrals, which leaves out the many victims who are fearful of involvement with the criminal justice system.
Furthermore, while A.506/S.7 laudably provides trafficking victims charged with prostitution with an affirmative defense that will prevent them from being revictimized by our justice system, the better practice should be that this be a defense, not affirmative defense, so that the prosecutor bears the burden of proving that the person charged is not a trafficking victim as opposed to requiring the victim to prove that she is a trafficking victim.
A.506/S.7 sends a powerful message of zero tolerance of trafficking by enabling prosecutors to build effective cases against traffickers and by providing meaningful protection to victims.
Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy
A.4272 / S.8
Current employment laws are inadequate to protect pregnant New Yorkers on the job. Under New York Law, employers are not required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women unless they have a pregnancy related disability. As a result, pregnant women in New York State are often forced to take unpaid leave or are fired for requesting a small accommodation. This lack of protection causes significant economic harm to thousands of pregnant women and their families every year, especially low-income and single mothers.
A.4272/S.8 would close this significant loophole in state and federal law. Specifically, this legislation would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women who make requests with the advice of their health care providers, unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the employer.
Reasonable accommodations for pregnant women are a public health necessity. Without the legal protections this legislation would provide, pregnant women are often reluctant to ask for and receive the accommodations they need both for their own health and the health of their unborn child. For many women, a choice between working under unhealthy conditions and potentially losing their income is no choice at all.
If passed, A.4272/S.8 would offer pregnant women an opportunity to continue working where they were formerly forced to take unpaid leave or were fired for requesting a small accommodation.
Enact the Reproductive Services Act
WBASNY continues to be a strong supporter of a woman’s fundamental right to make her own reproductive health care decisions. The State of New York recognized the importance of protecting this right by enacting its abortion laws in 1970, and the United States Supreme Court solidified this protection when it decided Roe v Wade three years later. However, today, women are witness to this basic right being jeopardized and eroded by the United States
The Reproductive Services Act will ensure that New York State stays at the forefront of protecting and respecting women’s health issues, and a woman’s right to make her own private reproductive health care decisions. The legislation protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health as determined by a physician.
The Reproductive Services Act adds important protections for New Yorkers and ensures that women in New York are able to have an abortion if their health is in danger. It removes abortion care from the state’s criminal code and places it within the public health law where all other health services are regulated.