Representatives from the New York State governor’s office visited the Ithaca College campus on March 7, the day before International Women’s Day, to share its Women’s Justice Agenda. The presentation garnered interest from students, faculty and staff, as well as local community members.
Kelli Owens, director of women’s affairs, went over the three-pronged set of proposals geared toward providing reproductive, economic and social justice for women in New York State. The plan included the passage of legislation, like the Reproductive Health Act; proposed changes to the New York State constitution, like the Equal Rights Amendment; and policies to address issues like the high maternal mortality rate in New York State.
Senior biochemistry major Zaira Sylvain was particularly interested in the measures to reduce maternal mortality rates and racial disparities in health care.
“I’m interested in learning about the maternal mortality review committees,” she said. “How do we hold physicians accountable for understanding and believing symptoms, not just writing them off as dramatic? They don’t believe the pain that most African-American women say they are having.”
She said that as part of her academic program, she wrote a grant proposal to research the biomarkers of preeclampsia, especially in African-American women, who are three to four times more likely to die from preeclampsia and other childbirth-related complications. She hopes identifying these biomarkers will help women know if they are at a greater risk of developing the condition, which is accompanied by high blood pressure and can lead to liver or kidney failure.
“There hasn’t been a lot of new information regarding detecting preeclampsia — physicians often aren’t able to detect it until the second or third trimester — and the only cure is delivery,” she says. “But what if delivery is not a healthy option for the baby or the mother?”
Local business owner Ariana Blossom came to find out more about the governor’s plans around reproductive and economic justice.
“I see how reproductive justice ties directly to economic justice,” said Blossom, who has organized events for women in business locally. “You can’t parse them apart when it comes to women’s lives and safety.”