Opinion: Ogdensburg pastor commends NY for fighting for women
Friday, April 6, 2018 - 10:40 am

To the Editor:

At a time that Washington is trying to roll back reproductive rights, I am proud to live in a state led by a Governor who is fighting back against these regressive policies and defending the right to choose when and how to have a family.

I have served as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Ogdensburg for the last ten and a half years, and the Planned Parenthood on our property has served the women and families of our community since the late 1960s.

Historically, clergy were a key force in bringing safe and legal abortion to New York and the nation. Women came, and continue to come, to faith leaders for faith filled moral consultation and help accessing full health care. As pastors, it is our job to assist our parishioners and community members who, in consultation with their own faith and family, must act as their own moral decision makers. Planned Parenthood offers affordable, comprehensive health care to women with quality and sensitivity, health care many would not otherwise be able to afford.

That is why the First Presbyterian church worked to bring the first Planned Parenthood Women’s Health Center to the city of Ogdensburg and gave it a home in our fellowship hall. The Church celebrates that we have been able to help the clinic remain on our property ever since.

The center has provided thousands of women, especially low-income women, with access to birth control, cancer screenings, annual exams, educational programs, and the right to choose. The services this dedicated clinic and staff have provided over the years guarantees that women can get the compassionate health services they need and the resources necessary to make their life choices freely.

A fundamental tenet of my beliefs is that society must treat every person equally without regard to gender, orientation, class, creed or color. When barriers are put in place of people to access reproductive health care, it most predominately affects those in marginalized communities, low-income women, and those living in remote regions. That directly contradicts those tenants of our faith.

New York has long been established as the progressive capital of the nation, especially in reproductive rights, but abortion remains in the penal code. For years Governor Cuomo has pushed to codify Roe v Wade so that regardless of what happens at the federal level, health care providers, like the ones in my church, can provide these services without fear of legal repercussions.

This year, Governor Cuomo is once again calling for the passage of this legislation in his 2018 Women’s Agenda, along with the Contraceptive Coverage Act to codify cost-free access to contraception and emergency contraception into New York State law. These actions are crucial to empower women to choose how and whether to become parents.

While Washington tries to roll back decades of progress, here in New York we are fighting back, from our local Planned Parenthoods to the halls of the State Capitol. I urge the legislature to pass the Governor’s critical reforms to ensure health care for New York women stays in the 21st century.

Reverend Laurena Marie Wickham Will

First Presbyterian Church of Ogdensburg