Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - FEBRUARY 26, 2003

New York City Council Stated Meeting Report

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting, where the 51 members of the council introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of what bills were passed.


Quote of the Day:
"There were over 2,000 rapes last year in this city and rapes tragically continue to rise. By passing these bills, we will know that if a woman is raped and goes into an emergency room, she will be offered this important medical intervention." – Councilmember Christine Quinn on legislation to make emergency contraception more readily available.

Meeting Summary:
On February 26, the New York City Council passed three bills that aim to give women greater access to emergency contraception.

Emergency contraceptives are high-dose birth control pills that if taken within the first 72 hours after unprotected intercourse or rape can reduce the chance of pregnancy. The legislation was the result of a council investigation (in PDF format) last year that found that nearly half of all pharmacies in the city do not carry the emergency contraceptive drugs Preven or Plan B, which were both approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997. The council's legislation does not address the drug RU-486.

The three bills passed by the council are: - Legislation (Intro 278-A) which would require pharmacies that do not carry the drugs to post signs indicating that they are not sold at that location. - A bill (Intro 281-A ) requiring hospitals that contract with the city to inform rape victims that emergency contraception is available and to offer it if requested. - A measure (Intro 285-A) requiring the Department of Health to make emergency contraception available at health clinics, centers, and stations.

The bills passed with little debate, although several council members voted "no" out of religious or moral objections. The piece of legislation requiring pharmacies to post notices was the most controversial, but still passed with 36 "yes" votes, 8 "no" votes. (Democrats Michael McMahon, Tony Avella, Allan Jennings, Simcha Felder, and Peter Vallone Jr. and Republicans Dennis Gallagher, Andrew Lanza, and James Oddo voted against the measure.)

The council also passed two resolutions. One calls on the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would allow undocumented immigrant college students to obtain resident status. Another urges the New York State Legislature to restore the right to vote for those who have committed felonies and are now on parole.

However, an anti-war resolution did not reach the council floor for a vote.

Some members were hoping that New York City would join some 100 other local municipalities that have already passed resolutions voicing opposition to a possible war in Iraq. But a vote on the resolution - which has the support of the majority of the City Council and Speaker Gifford Miller – was delayed over details in the wording. Some council members want kinder words for President George W. Bush, harsher words for Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein, or different criteria for what could justify a war. Now council members on both sides of the issue complain that the resolution has been watered down and has lost even symbolic significance.

"It's so vague, it could mean anything you want it to," said Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. who plans to vote against it.

The next stated meeting is scheduled for March 12.


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